The Dow Sleepwalks Into Negative Territory

With little news out, no major earnings on tap, and Asian markets closed for the Lunar New Year observance, investors are taking a breather today. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) has remained mostly flat on the day, and as of 2:15 p.m. EST the index has shed 28 points, or 0.2%. Stocks are mostly in the red, but only few members of the Dow are seeing moves of more than 1%. Let's check out the biggest movers.

Risers and laggards
Big Pharma player Pfizer (NYSE: PFE  ) is leading all Dow members, with shares picking up 1.1%. Pfizer took a beating last week, losing 2.7% to be the worst Dow stock of the week. There's little news out from the company, but all eyes are still on the firm's recent spinoff of animal health business Zoetis. The latter began its life as a publicly traded company earlier this month, and its shares have soared more than 6% since.

On the other side of the Dow, however, UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH  ) isn't having such a sunshiny day. The insurer's stock has fallen 1.1% to lead the index downward after it jumped 3.5% last week. The company's still navigating the new post-Affordable Care Act world, but investors should expect to see subscription numbers rise as uninsured Americans look to grab insurance before the ACA's penalty kicks in next year. The company has already been doing a good job growing membership, and if it can capitalize on the influx of new members, it'll be in prime position to maintain its leadership of the insurance industry.

Home Depot's (NYSE: HD  ) another laggard today that investors shouldn't fret about. Shares are down 1% so far, but this home improvement retailer is all about the recent bounce in the American housing market. While new-home sales have fallen recently, signs still point toward a rebound in housing that could help the economy pick up steam. If it does, Home Depot will be sitting pretty to cater to new homeowners; while the stock has picked up more than 47% over the past year, strong housing data in the future could send it even higher.

One laggard today with more immediate concerns is Coca-Cola (NYSE: KO  ) . The stock has shed 0.7%, but earnings are on tap for the beverage giant on Tuesday. Analysts expect $0.44 in earnings per share for the quarter -- a 10% year-over-year gain. We'll have to wait until tomorrow to see whether Coke can hit those numbers, but so far it's been a strong start to 2013 for the company. Shares have risen more than 3% since the new year, and an earnings hit could propel them even higher.

Learn to protect your portfolio
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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