The Dow Jones Industrials (DJINDICES: ^DJI ) set a record high for the third day in a row, rising 63 points, as bullish investors start looking at the possibility of Dow 15,000 as the milestone that is less than 1% above current levels. Absent bad news to the contrary, investors seem content to push stocks higher, and the broader market also followed the Dow up with a similar percentage increase.
Three high-profile tech stocks bucked the bullish trend, and dropped precipitously on news of unexpectedly sharp declines in the PC market. But given the huge amount of attention tech stocks have gotten today, let's go beyond the headlines to look at some other falling stocks that most people aren't talking about.
Within the Dow, Caterpillar (NYSE: CAT ) finished down by 1%. With avian flu posing a potentially rising threat in China, already weak macroeconomic conditions there could take yet another hit, adversely affecting Caterpillar's business there. Although most of the attention with bird flu has gone to U.S. fast-food companies, the construction and infrastructure industries would inevitably get affected if the outbreak rises to pandemic status, and that, in turn, would hurt demand for Caterpillar's equipment.
Bank of America (NYSE: BAC ) also fell, with a loss of 0.4%, as bank earnings season opens tomorrow. B of A doesn't report until next Wednesday, but it has a lot at stake as it faces a potential drop in its mortgage business resulting from slightly higher interest rates, and a corresponding slowdown in refinancing activity. Moreover, with some investors questioning its decision not to pay a higher dividend, the bank could find itself on the defensive with those impatient to get its yield back to more normal levels.
Finally, outside the Dow, refinery stocks had a bad day, with Phillips 66 (NYSE: PSX ) falling 3%, and bringing its total loss for the month of April to more than 10%. One reason for the drop may well have been the continued narrowing of spreads between global Brent crude prices and prevailing prices for West Texas Intermediate and other U.S. crude. High spreads have allowed Phillips 66 and its refining peers to reap big profits for years by exporting refined products abroad, but if the disparity is finally disappearing, then it will send earnings lower at a sensitive time for the industry.
Even with its Chinese troubles, Caterpillar still leads its industry and has big competitive advantages over its peers. Read all about Caterpillar's strengths and weaknesses in The Motley Fool's brand new report. Just click here to access it now.