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.
After a strong private-sector jobs report showed gains of 238,000 jobs in December, you might think investors would be ready to build on yesterday's gains for the Dow Jones Industrials (DJINDICES:^DJI). Instead, the Dow had dropped 7068 points by 11 a.m. in advance of the latest release of meeting minutes from the Federal Reserve. Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) and Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG) were among the falling stocks in the Dow, even as DuPont (NYSE:DD) rose.
Many attributed this morning's 1.3% drop in Microsoft stock to news that potential CEO candidate Alan Mulally would keep his position at Ford rather than taking over the tech giant. Mulally's decision puts Microsoft in an awkward position, with some analysts pointing to possible discord among board members in choosing a direction for the company after current CEO Steve Ballmer finally departs. The rough transition only highlights the need for major companies to have well-established succession plans in order to avoid the considerable uncertainty that Microsoft faces right now.
Procter & Gamble led the Dow lower with a drop of 1.4%. In some ways, P&G stock has the most to lose if a correction doesn't happen, as many investors have gravitated toward the consumer-goods giant's shares as a defensive play against possible market turbulence. As investors have gotten more comfortable with the bull market's resilience and length, the greater risk tolerance and higher interest rates that make its dividend look less attractive by comparison could continue to weigh on P&G's shares.
DuPont climbed 0.7% as rival Monsanto (NYSE:MON) reported favorable earnings this morning. With DuPont having largely followed in Monsanto's footsteps by adopting a more agriculturally focused business strategy, the fact that Monsanto topped estimates for both revenue and earnings was enough to send shares higher. The only downside was that Monsanto failed to raise its guidance for the full fiscal year, disappointing some who had expected a slight upgrade. Nevertheless, the Monsanto results validate DuPont's decision to focus on the lucrative ag-products sector over its diminishing traditional chemicals business.
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Fool contributor Dan Caplinger has no position in any stocks mentioned. You can follow him on Twitter @DanCaplinger. The Motley Fool recommends Ford and Procter & Gamble. The Motley Fool owns shares of Ford and 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.