Bears Finally Rein in the Bulls as the Markets Close Lower

Today's report indicating that the U.S.'s Gross Domestic Product fell by 0.1% in the fourth quarter was the catalyst for the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) , and other major indexes, to end the day on a down note. The Dow closed lower by 44 points, or 0.32%, which really is not that bad considering the economy contracted in Q4. But the main reason the markets didn't crash and burn today was because the lower GDP numbers were mainly a result of lower government spending in the defense area as 2012 came to an end. Most economists believe that this was a one-time occurrence, and are not expecting it to happen again in near future.

The other major indices also ended the day mixed, as the S&P 500 (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC  ) closed down 5.88 points, or 0.39% while the NASDAQ lost 11.35 points, or 0.36%. Since the Dow fell 44 points, it now sits at 13,910 and, of its 30 components, 21 of them ended the trading day in the red. To learn about why Cisco, Hewlett-Packard, General Electric, and United Technologies fell, click here. Or continue reading to learn what caused the drops in 3M (NYSE: MMM  ) , ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM  ) , and Chevron (NYSE: CVX  ) .

So why did they fall?
Shares of 3M closed the day down 0.99%, after it was announced that the Avery Dennison Corporation agreed to sell its label-converting unit and office-products business to CCL Industries. The sale price of $500 million is $50 million less than 3M had offered last year before the U.S. Justice Department blocked the transaction, which would have given 3M more than 80% of the U.S. market share in certain office supply items. Now that these units have been sold, 3M may feel more pressure in the office supply business, and will need to focus on maintaining market share. 

Shares of ExxonMobil fell by 1.19%, making it the worst-performing Dow component of the day. The drop came as a result of uncertainty surrounding the company, and what will happen in Iraq. The company must decide whether to work in the southern part of the country, which is under Baghdad's control, or northern Iraq, which is held by the Kurdistan regional government. Investors wait to see how ExxonMobil's decision, which is expected sometime in the next few days, will affect company profits.  

Nearly every politically charged decision pertaining to the oil industry affects not only the company involved in the issue, but all the big players, and the ExxonMobil Iraq issue is no different. Shares of Chevron also closed down 0.65%, while BP ended the day down 0.64%. All the big oil companies operate in Iraq, and Exxon's decision will likely set the precedence, which others will likely follow.

Additionally, Chevron was hit with a $1 million fine by the California Division of Occupation Safety and Health. The fine is related to the refinery fire Chevron experienced last year, which the agency said could have been avoided had the company followed its own recommendations to change a corroded pipe that malfunctioned and caused the fire.  

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