S&P Saves the Dow From Steep Losses

As the markets opened this morning, they quickly fell in the red, but an unexpected move by Standard & Poor's gave investors confidence to push stocks higher. The credit-rating agency uprgaded the U.S.' debt rating from "AA+ negative" to "AA+ stable." This is a sign that the agency sees less risk ahead for the economy and the U.S. government. 

The news has helped the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) recover from steeper losses to a minor six-point drop by 12:55 p.m. EDT, while the S&P 500 (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC  ) sits at breakeven. And the Nasdaq holds a slight lead, up 0.2%. But even on such a yawn-worthy day of trading, some stocks are lagging the market.

Despite my colleague Dan Caplinger's prediction that Caterpillar (NYSE: CAT  ) will announce an increase to its dividend on Wednesday, shares of the Cat are down 0.9% today. The company is also one of the Dow's most hated stocks: Short interest in the company is at 4%, and Sean Williams explained over the weekend why investors don't much care for the stock right now, knocking its price down 6.2% year to date to make it the worst-performing component on the blue-chip index. Sean noted that weak coal and precious-metal prices have really hurt the heavy-equipment manufacturer, but Sean feels Caterpillar is a good bet for the long-term investor, and I must agree with him. 

In the technology world, shares of both Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT  ) and Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ  ) are slipping today. Big softy is down 1%, while turnaround hopeful HP has dipped 0.6%. Both stocks have had a fabulous run year to date: Microsoft is up 32.84% and Hewlett-Packard has risen 71.79%. Today's drops could just be the result of investors taking profits as we move deeper into the slower summer months.

My colleague Evan Niu, however, noted this weekend that HP has been shifting away from the so-called "Wintel" relationship it has with Microsoft and Intel and toward Google's Android, Apple's iOS, and ARM-based chips. This shift could hurt surely hurt Microsoft and Intel, but I believe it also could damage HP's relationship with its customers. Consumers who have owned and grown attached to HP devices but now can't find similar devices may buy elsewhere. The chips may not be a huge problem, but the software may prove a serious issue, as many customers don't want to learn a whole new operating system.

More foolish insight
Caterpillar is the market share leader in an industry in which size matters, and its quality products, extensive service network, and unparalleled brand strength combine to give it solid competitive advantages. Read all about Caterpillar's strengths and weaknesses in The Motley Fool's brand-new report. Just click here to access it now.


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