Why 3 Dow Stocks Are Sluggish Today

There was good news on the jobs front this morning: The U.S. Department of Labor reported that 370,000 people filed initial jobless claims during the last week of November -- a drop of 25,000 claims from the prior reporting period. But investors don't really seem to care much about that today, as many continue to focus only on the looming fiscal cliff. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) is down a mere 10 points to 13,025 points as of 12:55 p.m. E.S.T. So far during today's trading session, the index is split with 15 stocks up and 15 either flat or in the red. Below I'll explain what's causing three of the losers to drop today.

Today's big Dow losers
Shares of Bank of America (NYSE: BAC  ) are moving lower by 0.7% today. A report from Renwood RealtyTrac indicated that the number of homes that would be sold short increased 35% in the third quarter. My colleague Robert Eberhard noted this morning that this could be a good thing for the banks because it will reduce the amount of bad debt the banks will carry on their balance sheets in the future. But when a home is sold short, the lender does not receive the full value of the loan and therefore takes a loss on the loan. As an investor, you never like a company lugging around old bad debt, but you also don't want to see it taking massive writedowns.

Shares of Travelers Company (NYSE: TRV  ) are down 0.72% today. Yesterday investors received good news from the company when it announced that its estimated net loss from Hurricane Sandy would be around $650 million after taxes. The stock moved higher by nearly 5% yesterday after this was reported, and today's selling is likely some investors taking money off the table after the nice pop.

Caterpillar's (NYSE: CAT  ) chairman and CEO Doug Oberhelman spoke with reporters today on the fiscal cliff and the U.S. economy. He said, "I believe we will meet the deadline," referring to the political negations being held to avoid the fiscal cliff. He continued, "Assuming no fiscal cliff, which I am assuming, the U.S. will look pretty good in 2013, not great but not bad." His belief that the economy will not be great in the coming year may be the reason shareholders are selling off Caterpillar today, causing the stock price to fall by 0.96%.

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