Why the Dow Finished Flat

After spending most of the day underwater, a late surge was enough to give the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) a small gain as the index finished up 7 points, or 0.05%. The Dow opened lower as as the German DAX and French CAC 40 were down more than 1% in anticipation of the European Central Bank's monthly policy meeting tomorrow. Investors also reacted to news that the U.S. Postal Service will cut Saturday letter-delivery in an attempt to help close its $21 billion deficit. Still, the general upward trend recently seemed to push markets higher, as a slew of stocks posted better-than-expected earnings last night and this morning, including Disney, Chipotle, Cummins, and Zynga.

Concerns about the leftovers of the fiscal cliff also began creeping into view as the automatic spending cuts are still set to go into effect on March 1. Congress, however, appeared to be making steps toward a compromise that includes a mix of spending cuts and the closing of tax loopholes.

Nineteen out of 30 components on the Dow higher moved higher today, with 3M (NYSE: MMM  ) leading the pack. The conglomerate, which makes everything from Post-It notes to solar panels, posted a gain of 1.2% after raising its quarterly dividend by 8% last night from $0.59 to $0.635. The company also increased its share-buyback allowance from $7 billion to $7.5 billion and this morning added Coca-Cola Chairman and CEO Muhtar Kent to its board.

Intel (NASDAQ: INTC  ) was the biggest loser on the Dow, falling 0.9% as shares appear to be affected by the mostly negative reviews of Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT  ) Surface Pro tablet. Microsoft's most advanced tablet runs on an Intel chip, and Intel is anxiously looking for a foothold in the mobile market as declining PC sales have hurt its core business and sales and profits are down. Microsoft fell 0.6% on the day.

After hours, shares of Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (NASDAQ: GMCR  ) were cooling off as its guidance missed Wall Street's view in its quarterly report. Shares were down 7%. The maker of the Keurig single-cup brewing system said its current-quarter revenue would clock in between $1.01 billion and $1.04 billion, below analyst expectations of $1.06 billion. Adjusted EPS for the previous quarter grew 15% to $0.76 and revenue jumped 15% as well to $1.34 billion. Analysts had expected earnings of just $0.65 per share.

With more than 50,000 products, 3M plays a role in making everything from computers to power cables. A long history of invention and innovation has driven the company to its wide reach, but a focus on operational efficiency may be hurting the creative culture that once invented Scotch Tape and the Post-It Note. A new leader has taken over and vows to return innovation to the forefront. Does this mean the stock will become more than a dividend, returning to its former glory as a growth stock once again? Find out whether 3M has what it takes to pull it off in The Motley Fool's comprehensive new research report on the company. As a bonus, you'll receive a full year of key updates and guidance as news develops, so don't miss out -- simply click here now to claim your copy today.


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