Telecoms Hold Back the Dow

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.

Investors are approaching the day cautiously, prompting only small gains in the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) through the early afternoon. As of 2:15 p.m. EDT the Dow has picked up 15 points, with blue-chip member stocks split between risers and fallers. Most Dow stocks aren't moving too dramatically, but the index's two telecom giants are leading the Dow's laggards. Let's catch up on all the stock action you need to know about.

Telecoms fight for position
AT&T
(NYSE: T  ) is stuck at the bottom of the blue-chip index today, with shares down 1.3% after sources attributed by Reuters said the company is interested in buying a potentially significant stake in Italy's leading telecom firm, Telecom Italia. While AT&T has declined to comment in the matter, if the rumor proves reality, it could be a significant step toward expansion for America's second-largest wireless carrier.

Telecom Italia is burdened with debt, however, so it's not a clear-cut victory for investors if AT&T moves in on the buy. The roughly $38 billion in debt Telecom Italia had at the end of June far surpassed the company's market capitalization, and ratings companies have already mulled downgrading the firm's debt to junk status.

For AT&T however, it's a potential way to keep up with competitor Verizon (NYSE: VZ  ) , America's leading wireless company. Verizon made big waves recently when it announced a massive deal to purchase Vodafone's share of Verizon Wireless. Verizon's shares are also down moderately today as the company moves to seal financing for the $130 billion deal. It's a pricey deal, but considering the growth of the wireless market -- growth that Verizon thinks still has room to run in the U.S. -- it might be enough to cement Verizon's status as the above-and-beyond leader in America's wireless battle.

JPMorgan (NYSE: JPM  ) is one of two big banks in the process of securing financing for Verizon, and the bank's stock is up 0.7% so far today on investor optimism. But JPMorgan's in the news today for another reason: The company announced today that it will stop accepting applications for student loans.

This looks like a good move for the company. The student loan bubble has become a massive hurdle in the U.S., and JPMorgan cited government competition in the business as problematic for future growth. Additionally, student loan assets -- just $11 billion at the company -- don't even comprise 1% of JPMorgan's total assets. It's a low-risk move that won't jeopardize the firm's performance in the future but will remove it from one of the major financial obstacles facing Americans. For JPMorgan, a company that has dealt with enough high-profile problems lately, it's a good move to step away from a growing national problem before any real headaches emerge.

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