Uncertainty in Europe and Slowing Home Sales Pull Markets Lower

It was a mixed bag for the major indexes today. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) closed down 33 points, or 0.23%, and now sits at 14,526. The S&P 500 closed down just 0.92 points, or 0.06%, and once again remains within striking distance of its all-time closing price of 1,565, currently resting at 1,562. The Nasdaq, meanwhile, managed to close higher today, up 4 points, or 0.12%, even though two of its most-followed stocks, Apple and Google, both closed lower by more than 1%.

There were two macro events that caused stocks to decline today. The first is continued uncertainty and fear from across the Atlantic. The controversial terms of the bailout of Cyprus could cause a bank run not only there but also in other European countries, which themselves may need additional bailouts in the coming months.

The second event was a 0.4% drop in the National Association of Realtors' pending-home-sales index, which tracks the number of contracts signed every month. This could mean one of two things: Fewer homes were for sale, or there are fewer buyers looking for a home. Investors should keep in mind that this was just one data reading. If the trend continues to show declining sales, increased concern is warranted, but this sing;e lower reading shouldn't be seen as a big deal.  

Top Dow losers
In the wake of the lower pending-home-sales reading, shares of Home Depot (NYSE: HD  ) fell by 0.57% today. The store is directly tied to the housing market and lives and dies with its success or failure. But even though home sales dropped 0.4% from January to February in the NAR index, they're still up 8.2% on a year-over-year basis. Looking at a three-, six-, or 12-month rolling period is a better way to gauge the housing market and determine which direction it's possibly heading.  

Both the Dow's telecom stocks also headed lower today. Shares of AT&T (NYSE: T  ) lost 0.33% of their value, while Verizon's (NYSE: VZ  ) stock declined by 1.09%. Both stocks are heavily shorted and saw more shorts piling on from January to February. AT&T currently has 90.54 million shares out of 5.49 billion shares sold short, while Verizon counts 61.21 million out of 2.86 billion. Both stocks are trading within striking distance of their 52-week highs and may face some serious headwinds from stronger competitors now that a number of smaller players have merged or been acquired.

Lastly, one stock that's not heavily shorted is Coca-Cola (NYSE: KO  ) , but shares did close lower by 1.16% today. Only 30.52 million of the 3.83 billion shares available were shorted at the end of February, but the stock still currently ranks as the 19th most shorted Dow component. The stock hit a new 52-week high yesterday, so today's pull is likely just a matter of investors booking profits.

Coca-Cola's wide moat has helped provide its shareholders with superior gains in the past, but the company faces some new threats to its continued market dominance. The Motley Fool recently compiled a premium research report containing everything you need to know about Coca-Cola. If you own or are considering owning shares in the company, you'll want to click here now and get started!


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