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.
The day after the markets rallied on the Federal Reserve announcement that it would begin tapering its bond-buying program, they are heading in the opposite direction today. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) finished trading Wednesday up 292 points, or 1.84%, while the S&P 500 gained 1.66% and the Nasdaq rose 1.15%. As of 1 p.m. EST today, the Dow is down four points, or 0.02%, the S&P 500 is off by 0.16% and the Nasdaq has fallen 0.34%.
Today's move lower could be caused by a number of things, certainly including higher-than-expected initial unemployment claims. Analysts expected claims to come in around 337,000 for last week, but they actually hit 369,000. The unemployment picture was one of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's big talking points yesterday in public comments after the Federal Open Market Committee meeting ended. So this is certainly not one metric investors want to see perform poorly.
Let's take a look at a few individual stocks and see why they are joining the major indices in heading in the wrong direction.
Dow component Caterpillar (NYSE:CAT) is one of the bigger losers of the day as shares have fallen 0.80%. The drop comes after the company announced retail sales for heavy machines for the last three months had fallen 12% when compared to the same time frame last year. During the period, sales fell 24% in the Asia-Pacific market;16% in the European, African, and Middle East market; 2% in North America; and 17% in the rest of the world. Caterpillar has been struggling with declining sales for nearly all of 2013 and the stock price performance this year shows its troubles. Shares are down 2.3% year to date, making Cat the second-worst performing Dow stock of 2013.
Rite Aid reported troubling earnings this morning. Net income for the quarter came in at $71.5 million, or $0.04 per share. The same quarter last year the company reported $69.9 million and $0.07 per share. Sales came in at $6.36 billion, compared to last year's $6.24 billion. Furthermore, for the full year the company is now predicting earnings per share of $0.17-$0.23, while analysts have been calling for $0.23. The quarterly results have certainly came in lower than many expected and don't paint a good picture of the company. Higher sales but lower earnings is never a good thing and can indicate a number of problems.
Meanwhile, Goldman Sachs released a statement this morning indicating that J.C. Penney could face continued margin pressures in the future. The analyst believes the company will further reduce prices on merchandise in order to push goods out the door as it focuses more on its own private label merchandise. While this may be a good strategy in the long run, it doesn't appear it is going to help the company get on Wall Street's good side anytime soon.
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Fool contributor Matt Thalman has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. 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.