The Best and Worst Dow Stocks Today

Following some mixed reports on the economy and the housing market, as well as some hit-and-miss earnings reports, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) is down 0.42% as of 1:25 p.m. EDT, while the S&P 500 (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC  ) is down 0.47%.

There were two U.S. economic releases today.

Report

Period

Result

Previous

Markit flash PMI

July

53.2

51.9

New-home sales

June

497,000

459,000

Markit's "flash" Purchasing Managers' Index came in higher than last month's 51.9, indicating that the economy expanded at a faster rate than in June. The "flash" PMI is an early estimate of the final PMI based on 85% of the responses used for Markit's PMI reading. The rise was driven by faster growth in output, new orders, employment, and backlogs. This is a good sign for the economy that economic growth will continue, but it's perhaps a bad sign for asset prices, as faster growth would mean the Federal Reserve could begin tapering its asset purchases.

New-home sales were also strong at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 497,000, beating analyst expectations of 483,000 and last month's 459,000. New-home sales are nearly 40% above the year-ago rate.

US New Single Family Houses Sold Chart

US New Single Family Houses Sold data by YCharts.

The recent rise in mortgage rates has not yet slowed down new-home sales, but rates are still low by historical standards.

The other big news today has been earnings reports. Caterpillar (NYSE: CAT  ) is today's worst Dow stock, down 2.7% after it reported earnings per share of $1.45 -- a full 40% below the prior-year quarter's $2.54 and well short of analyst expectations of $1.71. Revenue came in at $14.6 billion, down 16% from a year ago and below analyst expectations of $14.9 billion. On top of the disappointing earnings, the company also cut its forecast for 2013 EPS from $7 to $6.50 and lowered its revenue guidance from $56 billion-$58 billion to $57 billion-$61 billion. Fool contributor Neha Chamaria recently discussed what investors should look for in Caterpillar's earnings release.

Today's Dow leader is American Express (NYSE: AXP  ) , up 1.2%. Last week American Express was the second-worst Dow component after news leaked that the European Commission was working on a proposal to cap transaction fees at 0.2% for credit card and debit card transactions. Yesterday the European Commission released its draft proposal to regulate card-based payment transactions in Europe. Today American Express issued a statement in response to the proposal to alleviate investors' fears. The company affirmed its belief that its merchant discount rate would not be affected, as it has its own network and does not operate on the basis of interbank agreements, as Visa and Mastercard do.

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