Why Stocks Are Slumping Today

In a day devoid of news, stocks are headed slightly lower in afternoon trading. With an hour left in the trading session, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) is down by 33 points, or 0.24%.

Companies fear the future
As we proceed further into 2013, it's becoming increasingly evident that companies are less than optimistic about the remainder of the year. Data from Thomson Reuters suggests that analysts expect earnings at S&P 500 companies to increase by only 1.7% this quarter. This is less than half the estimates from earlier in the year, according to The Wall Street Journal, which also noted that 63 S&P companies have already lowered their forecasts for the first quarter.

The best-performing stock on the Dow today is Pfizer (NYSE: PFE  ) , which is up nearly 1% in intraday trading. As fellow Fool Dan Dzombak discussed earlier, the pharmaceutical company cut the leash on its animal health business at the beginning of this month. The resulting initial public offering, in which Pfizer sold 20% of its stake and retained the remaining 80%, amounted to the largest IPO since Facebook's in the middle of last year.

Conversely, the worst-performing blue-chip stock at the time of writing is Home Depot (NYSE: HD  ) , which is currently down a little more than 1%. My colleague Matt Thalman speculated that the reason its shares are falling is an announcement that the home improvement retailer will swap out its company-issued BlackBerry phones in exchange for Apple  (NASDAQ: AAPL  ) iPhones. As Matt noted, "The cost of replacing 10,000 phones will likely have some investors arguing that it's a waste of shareholder capital."

On the subject of Apple, the saga surrounding the company's unconscionable cash hoard continues unabated despite the intervening weekend. Last week, famed hedge fund manager David Einhorn publicized his dispute with the technology giant over its hesitation to return capital to shareholders. Apple responded in a press release stating that it's "in active discussions" about doing so. And today an analyst at ISI Group confirmed Apple's commitment to doing so following a conversation he had with the company's CFO, Peter Oppenheimer.

For the remainder of the week, investors will likely have their eyes on three different things. First, President Obama addresses the nation tomorrow night in his State of the Union speech. Second, the Department of Commerce reports January retail sales on Wednesday. And finally, weekly jobless claims from last week are released on Thursday.

Learn how 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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