Mulally's Rejection Sparks Microsoft's Fall as the Dow Dives

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 markets are slipping sharply today across the board, with a few gainers helping to keep the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) from falling deeply into the red. As of 2:30 p.m. EST, the Dow's dropped more than 70 points, with all but a handful of blue-chip member stocks down for the day. Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT  ) leading the pack lower, shedding about 2%, but Boeing (NYSE: BA  ) has continued its run from last year by gaining about 0.4% today. Let's catch up on what you need to know.

Microsoft's CEO hunt goes on
Microsoft's CEO dilemma goes on, but one thing seems clear: The long-projected front-runner to replace Steve Ballmer won't be taking the job. Ford (NYSE: F  ) CEO Alan Mulally announced yesterday that he would stay at his current job through 2014, sending Ford's stock higher while taking down Microsoft shares. It's an understandable disappointment for Microsoft investors: Mulally's done a great job at keeping sales soaring at Ford, with the company in particular posting a 49% sales jump in China in 2013. That's a lost opportunity for Microsoft, but the ongoing uncertainty around Microsoft's leadership is one big trouble hanging over the company's head this year.

Microsoft now doesn't expect to finalize its replacement for Ballmer until at least next month, although the company has said it is close to naming a successor. With Microsoft making new strides in the consumer tech market while looking to maintain its dominance in software, it's pivotal that the company find its next leader soon -- shares have fallen roughly 6% in the past month over the wait.

Boeing hasn't had any trouble with its stock price lately, as 2013's Dow leader continues its ascent today. Boeing's agreement with its largest union for a new eight-year contract has settled investors' nerves and secured labor peace for the near future, an anchor of stability that couldn't come at a better time. Boeing's pushing ahead into the civilian airliner market with such strength that it can't afford a hiccup with labor.

A report yesterday indicates that Boeing's not slowing down at gobbling up new orders, either, as the aerospace giant reportedly inked a $4 billion deal with India's SpiceJet for up to 42 737 MAX aircraft. The 737's long been Boeing's civil aircraft mainstay, and with the company expecting around 70% of new aircraft deliveries between 2012 and 2032 to be single-body craft, expect similar deals in this company's future.

That's music to the ears of Boeing investors. Operating margin has picked up lately at Boeing's commercial aerospace division, gaining more than 2 percentage points in the most recent quarter to rise to 11.6%. Sales are on a roll, with commercial revenue growth far outpacing the sluggishness seen in Boeing's defense division, and the aircraft backlog hasn't seen any remote sign of turbulence over the past year. It's clear skies ahead for Boeing despite last year's run-up: In the long run, this stock has plenty of room to soar.

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