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.
Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) stock is one of the few Dow components making gains today as the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) falls shortly before the release of the Federal Open Market Committee's minutes. As of 1:25 p.m. EDT the Dow is down 50 points, or 0.34%, to 14,953. The S&P 500 (SNPINDEX:^GSPC) is down 0.28% to 1,648.
Despite a release that existing-home sales rose 6.5% to a three-year high, 25 of 30 Dow stocks are in the red. Stocks have been battered around this earnings season. Housing and sales of durable consumer goods (goods lasting longer than three years, such as cars and appliances) have been strong, while sales of nondurable consumer goods have grown more slowly. This is evident in the stronger-than-expected quarterly reports from Home Depot and Lowe's. It can also be seen, conversely, in the weaker-than-expected quarterly reports from the likes of Target and Wal-Mart.
The big event today, the release of the FOMC's minutes from the July meeting, comes at 2 p.m. EDT. Investors hope to gain deeper insight into the committee's thoughts as to what metrics it is examining and when the Fed might begin to draw down its monthly asset-purchase program, known as "quantitative easing." Earlier this summer, the Fed spooked the markets, particularly the bond market, when it said that if the economy continues to improve, the Fed could begin to cut back QE as soon as the end of 2013. While the stock market has not been hit too hard by the rising worries over Fed "tapering," the bond market has suffered a major sell-off, with the yield on the 10-year Treasury rising by more than 50%.
So what's an investor to do in this Fed-dominated market? Your time is better spent ignoring the market's ups and downs and focusing on your investing plan -- or making an investing plan if you don't have one. If the market drop continues, opportunities will arise for long-term investors to pick up undervalued companies.
Today's Dow leader
Today's Dow leader is Microsoft, up 0.7% to rank among the top Dow stocks for the second day in a row. While there's no news on the company today, there is a lot to like about Microsoft for long-term investors. The company looks undervalued, trading at just more than 12 times earnings. The company still has the dominant operating system on PCs, and while many argue that the PC is dying, most office workers would beg to differ. Further, Microsoft has a long history of paying a dividend (which it increased by 15% last year) and loads of cash -- $76 billion at last count versus $16 billion in debt. Finally, activist investor ValueAct Capital took a stake in the company earlier this year, which could help the company make better capital-allocation decisions going forward.
Dan Dzombak can be found on Twitter @DanDzombak or on his Facebook page, DanDzombak. He has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.