Dow Slips Further Following the Fed's Release

Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over daily movements, we do like to keep an eye on market changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.

Stocks have taken a turn for the worse this afternoon. The markets briefly plunged following the release of the Federal Open Market Committee's most recent meeting minutes, but they bounced back somewhat to sit slightly below their earlier levels. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) has lost about 70 points as of 2:25 p.m. EDT.

The Fed announced that it's on pace to wind down its "quantitative easing" program by the end of the year, citing a likely economic improvement later in 2013, but that's hardly news. And for long-term investors committed to holding stocks well into the future, it shouldn't shake your portfolio to the core. Let's catch up on the stock action you need to know about.

HP sours before earnings
Hewlett-Packard
(NYSE: HPQ  ) is leading the Dow downward today, with shares falling 2.2% so far. The beleaguered tech company will release earnings results after the closing bell today, and all eyes are watching for signs of whether CEO Meg Whitman's attempts to turn the company around are working.

What should you be on the lookout for from HP? Analysts' average estimates predict that the company's earnings will decline 14% year over year for the quarter, while revenue is expected to drop 8%. That would be disheartening, but considering that HP lost 10% in revenue for the first quarter, it's a modest upward tick from more downbeat numbers.

Watch closely to see whether HP can move forward in any of its more promising divisions. HP's PC sales have slumped as the industry as a whole declines: HP's notebook sales fell by more than 30% in the first quarter, and desktop sales fell by 23%. Even HP's infrastructure technology and business services offerings fell in the first quarter, and areas like those, as well as high-growth fields such as data centers, will be crucial to the tech firm's turnaround.

Even a stock that reported strong earnings yesterday hasn't shaken the blues today: Home Depot's (NYSE: HD  ) shares have fallen 0.17% on the day. The housing recovery fueled up Home Depot's finances, and the company hit all the right notes for investors as earnings jumped 17% year over year and revenue climbed nearly 10%.

Home Depot followed up that good news by boosting its guidance, projecting that full-year earnings will rise 20% year over year as the housing market continues to bounce back from its recession lows. Today's drop may not help Home Depot's stock much, but so long as homes continue to sell, the company will have customers aplenty.

The only damper on Home Depot's optimism is that rival Lowe's (NYSE: LOW  ) is closing the gap between the two home improvement retailers. Lowe's generated 9.6% sales growth for stores open longer than a year. That's more than a full percentage point lower than Home Depot's same-store sales growth, but that margin is narrower than it has been in years for the No. 2 company in the industry. It really is a case of a rising tide lifting all ships, however, and investors shouldn't get so hung up on Lowe's success that they miss out on Home Depot's.

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