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.
Four stocks on the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI ) either reported quarterly performance this morning or are set to step before investors after the closing bell later today. So far the outcome's been anything but good on the stock charts: The Dow's down 50 points as of 2:30 p.m. EST, with most stocks in the red.
Verizon (NYSE: VZ ) , Travelers (NYSE: TRV ) , and Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ ) have reported so far, and all three are among the Dow's leading laggards. IBM (NYSE: IBM ) is on deck to report earnings later, although the tech stock's managed to hold off bigger losses so far. Let's catch up on what you need to know.
Earnings action around the Dow
Travelers has fallen by about 1.8% so far despite posting a solid performance in the fourth quarter. The insurance company's net income more than tripled over the year-ago period in climbing to $2.70 per share. Travelers' catastrophe costs plunged year over year and largely provided the boost to the company's quarterly success. In all, the company paid only $53 million in catastrophe costs in the fourth quarter, a huge decline over the more than $1 billion paid out in the fourth quarter of 2012 after Hurricane Sandy slammed the Northeast. With an extremely quiet hurricane season this year in the Atlantic, Travelers has made the most of its good fortune.
Verizon has fallen 2.1% despite, like Travelers, posting superb earnings. Excluding one-time items, the wireless carrier's earnings per share came out to $0.66 -- topping analyst expectations and soaring year over year. However, that didn't alleviate some Wall Street concerns. Industry observers note intensifying competition in the wireless space, particularly as some of Verizon's top rivals have offered to cover consumers' contract cancellation fees up (to certain limits) to switch to their networks. While Verizon remains the top wireless provider in the U.S., don't count out how a price war could hit this stock in 2014.
In health care, Johnson & Johnson is down about 1.8% after its earnings also topped analyst expectations. Despite another strong quarter out of Johnson & Johnson's pharmaceutical division, which boosted the company's net earnings by 37% year over year, Wall Street is concerned about the company's estimates for 2014. Johnson & Johnson projects between $5.75 and $5.85 in per-share earnings in the current year, a number that would represent nearly 20% growth over the company's full-year 2013 earnings -- but one that also offers plenty of possibility of missing out on average analyst projections of $5.85.
While Johnson & Johnson warned that prescription drug sales growth likely will slow in 2014, star products such as immunology blockbuster Remicade continue to soar. Investors shouldn't worry too much about today's drop.
IBM, meanwhile, is down only 0.6% so far with its own earnings on tap this afternoon. Analysts project earnings per share at the tech company to gain more than 11% year over year, even though average projections peg IBM's revenue to fall 3.6%. Still, IBM has done a good job of beating analyst expectations lately, topping projections in three of the last four quarters. However, with competition around cloud computing and business software growing, IBM will need to drive sales higher in order to continue keeping its earnings marching higher.
Is your financial future meeting expectations?
Earnings are shaking up stocks today, but the Dow and the markets have returned great gains over the past year. Have you made the most of the market's rally? Millions of Americans have waited on the sidelines since the market meltdown in 2008 and 2009, too scared to invest and put their money at further risk. Yet those who've stayed out of the market have missed out on huge gains and put their financial futures in jeopardy. In our brand-new special report, "Your Essential Guide to Start Investing Today," The Motley Fool's personal finance experts show you why investing is so important and what you need to do to get started. Click here to get your copy today -- it's absolutely free.