The convenient scapegoat for this morning's drop in the Dow Jones Industrials (INDEX: ^DJI) was once again uncertainty about the Federal Reserve's exit strategy from its quantitative-easing policies, which have had a huge impact on the financial markets for years and dominated investors' attention recently. Better-than-expected data on durable-goods orders wasn't enough to keep the stock market from declining for what could be a third consecutive day for the Dow. By 10:45 a.m. EDT, the Dow was down 69 points, while the broader market suffered somewhat larger percentage losses.
Within the Dow, a big gain by Procter & Gamble after the company replaced CEO Bob McDonald wasn't enough to offset losses elsewhere. Tech stocks were among the biggest losers of the morning, with Intel (NASDAQ: INTC) and Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ) both falling about 1.5%. For Intel, a look at its promising Haswell chip line yesterday revealed some attractive features, including dramatically reduced power-consumption. What the company has to hope, though, is that manufacturers of PCs and mobile devices are able to take Haswell and design hit new products around it. Only then can Intel truly make its mark on the mobile space.
Meanwhile, HP's decline is likely just a modest pullback after yesterday's huge advance, in which the stock soared 17% following CEO Meg Whitman's positive comments in its quarterly earnings release. Despite being in the initial stages of what Whitman concedes will be a long turnaround story, HP has started to inspire confidence among investors who, as recently as late last year, seemed convinced that the company couldn't come up with a viable alternative to its faltering PC business.
Outside the Dow, earnings played a key role in the market's overall decline. Among the worst performers is Sears Holdings (NASDAQ: SHLD), which plunged 16.5% after posting a loss that was much worse than expected. Yet what might be more troubling for investors is the fact that the company is looking at strategic options for its real estate and its warranty service-protection business, demonstrating its need to raise capital and its continued difficulty in focusing on improving its retail business. Without any viable plan to boost sales, Sears doesn't appear to have a turnaround plan that's at all likely to result in long-term success for the long-struggling retailer.
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