Dow Bombs on a Dismal Unemployment Prediction

This morning, Chicago Federal Reserve President Charles Evans said he believes the unemployment rate will not fall below 6.5% until mid-2015. The Fed has announced that its quantitative-easing programs will continue until unemployment hits that 6.5%. While Evans believes the Fed is taking the appropriate actions to stimulate the economy, he feels it may be possible to end quantitative easing before unemployment even reaches 7%.

In additional news on the jobs front, the first-time unemployment claims released today fell slightly from the previous week's revised number of 371,000. Last week's claims were expected to come in at 360,000 but actually landed a bit higher at 366,000. The only good news from the report was that the four-week moving average dropped to 350,500, which is its lowest level since March of 2008.

As expected, the markets aren't taking this news very well today: as of 12:55 p.m. EST the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) is down 90 points, or 0.65%, with all but three of its 30 components in the red. The other major indexes are also slipping, with the S&P 500 (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC  ) down 0.56% and the NASDAQ down 0.54%.

So who's down and why?
It was announced this morning that George Lucas has no plans to sell his stake in Walt Disney (NYSE: DIS  ) at this time. Lucas is the second-largest non-institutional shareholder with 37.1 million shares, or a 2.1% stake in the company. Lucas sold his Star Wars franchise for cash and stock just a few months ago. Disney has already announced a number of new Star Wars movies, which Lucas will likely help create. Shareholders may be wondering whether Lucas plans to keep some control over his empire. Shares of Disney are down 1.1%.

Political tensions in Iraq are rising again over the country's oil trade. It is being reported that the government will not likely pass a unified Iraqi hydrocarbon law, which would bring the country's oil operations under a unified body. ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM  ) current operates in the country and has contracts with both the north and south, which will likely force the company to abandon one region and work with only one partner in Iraq. The proposed law would give Exxon the ability to maintain both contracts and continue working the oil fields throughout the country. Shares of Exxon are down 1.5% on the news.

The rumors that Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ  ) will be broken up are likely just that -- rumors. When they broke on Tuesday, the stock was up 2.66%, but today, as investors realize there is likely no merit to the talk, shares have fallen 1.9%. The stock struggled during 2012, but it's up nearly 15% in 2013. Whether the run can continue will depend on the management's team's ability to turn the floundering PC company around.

More Foolish Insight
Are you at ease...or nervous? It's been a great five-year run for investors, with the Dow and S&P at or near all-time highs. Yet fears abound. When will the next downturn hit? Will political gridlock lead to portfolio-killing inflation? To learn how to protect your portfolio, click here for free guidance from the Motley Fool Pro Academy!

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