3 Stocks That May Help Determine the Dow's Moves Today

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) finished strong last week, and eked out a closing price just above the 14,000 mark. The rally continued this morning, when the Dow hit 14,080 -- 85 points under its record close from 2007 -- just after 10 a.m. ET. But that gain was shortly lost, as the index fell as much as 95 points within the hour. With it now hovering right around 14,000, there are a few stock components that may have a say in how the Dow performs the rest of the day.

But first a little macro news...
European markets dismissed the news from Moody's that the U.K. sovereign credit rating was downgraded over the weekend from AAA to AA1. This may help U.S. investors maintain some confidence in trading today. Though there's not a lot of economic data coming out today, Ben Bernanke's semiannual testimony before the Senate Banking Committee is scheduled for tomorrow and Wednesday, which is sure to affect how the market does during the rest of the week if last week's FOMC minutes are an indication of movement on QE3.

Winners pushing higher
McDonald's (NYSE: MCD  ) is the big winner so far this morning within the Dow, a good sign since the restaurant carries so much weight in the index, at No. 3 of the components. The fast-food chain will begin trading ex-dividend on Wednesday, so investors looking to grab the restaurateur's $0.77-per-share dividend on March 15 may be scooping up shares, boosting the stock price. It may also help that the most recent Academy Award winner for lead actress just gave the chain a big shout-out before last night's Oscars. Jennifer Lawrence, known for her candor and approachability, told reporters on the red carpet that she was starving and had ordered Mickey D's on the way to the show. But take note, Golden Arches -- if an Oscar-winning actress calls you out on skimping on the ketchup, you may have to address the "problem."

Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT  ) is also hitting the gas this morning, after making it on the Dividend Channel's S.A.F.E. 25 list. The list is reserved for stocks that have solid dividend returns, continued dividend growth, "flawlessness" (meaning no missed or lowered dividends), and a long history of paying dividends. Wal-Mart's current yield clocks in at 2.7%, and the retail behemoth has been raising its payout for two decades. If your goal is consistent and growing income, Wal-Mart should be one of the stocks at the top of your list.

1 loser with some weight
Pfizer (NYSE: PFE  ) is on the descent so far this morning, down 0.77% as of 11:30 a.m. ET. Though it's not the biggest loser of the blue chips, most of the other losers carry a smaller weight in the Dow than the pharmaceutical giant. Despite news last week that the company's drug Lyrica finished phase 3 testing and was 50% effective in patients for treating epilepsy, the news hasn't been enough to keep the stock afloat. The company's new cancer drug, Xalkori, was dismissed by Germany's Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care as having no additional benefits compared to other available drugs. Pfizer's pharmaceutical drug segment has been facing a headwind for a while now, as the operations have lost a number of patents. Though the outlook seems brighter with the Lyrica announcement and the FDA approval of the company's blood thinner, Eliquis, investors may need to see some improvement on the books before going all-in again.

Outside the Dow, another pharmaceutical company has been hit hard this morning -- Affymax (NASDAQOTH: AFFY  ) . After news that the company's anemia drug Omontys caused three deaths in dialysis patients, Affymax's partner, Takeda Pharmaceutical, recalled the drug. Shares of Affymax have plunged 85% this morning following the news.

Wal-Mart isn't the only opportunity within the Dow for income investors. If you're looking for some long-term investing ideas, check out the Fool's special report: "The 3 Dow Stocks Dividend Investors Need." It's absolutely free, so just click here and get your copy today.


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