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.
Weak earnings reports and the announcement that the Federal Reserve will cut its asset purchase amount by another $10 billion next month helped push the major indexes lower today. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI ) closed the day down 189 points, or 1.19%, while the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq lost 1.02% and 1.14%, respectively.
Despite the overall market's decline and the Dow's dismal performance, shares of four of its 30 components moved higher today. DuPont (NYSE: DD ) increased by 1.91%, Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT ) rose 1.08%, Verizon (NYSE: VZ ) increased by 0.7%, and 3M (NYSE: MMM ) brought up the rear with a 0.34% gain. Let's look at what caused these moves today.
DuPont got a boost after competitor Dow Chemical reported better-than-expected earnings this morning. The strong performance was even enough to give management the confidence to increase both its dividend and share buyback amounts. We've recently heard a number of investors calling for DuPont to shrink its business and sell off underperforming units, or even split off its chemical business from the rest of the company. Dow Chemical's quarterly results may be just what those voices need to get DuPont's board and management to hear the cries.
Verizon appears to have also benefited from news about a competitor, as AT&T reported better-than-expected earnings per share this morning, but subscriber additions came in below estimates and the company expects to miss on analysts' 2014 free-cash-flow forecasts. AT&T appears to be struggling more than its peers as the competition heats up, and, the weak FCF outlook could hurt the company's ability to competitively operate in the future. That puts Verizon in an even stronger position.
There wasn't really one catalyst for the move higher today at Microsoft, but its recent earnings report certainly helped. As investors have now had a few days to dig into the report, they've found that on most measures the company is looking rather good. Its Xbox and tablet sales are higher than a year earlier, and just around the corner the company should see an increased demand for its newer Windows software, as the XP version will no longer be supported as of April 8. It's been reported that more than 39 million PCs worldwide still use the old software, and if XP consumers end up purchasing a new Windows 8 PC or upgrading an old machine to Windows 7, Microsoft is going to make money.
As for 3M, investors look to be getting excited about its the earnings report tomorrow. After closing up 0.34% in the regular trading session, the stock rose another 1.15% in the after-hours. Analysts are calling for revenue of $7.71 billion and earnings per share of $1.62, which would represent year-over-year increases of 4.3% and 14.9%, respectively. As my colleague Travis Hoium recently noted, if investors want 3M to be anything but a solid dividend-paying stock, the company needs to show growth of this magnitude. Based on the third quarter's results, the company's continual focus on R&D is beginning to pay off, and today's move may have come from investors piling on at the last minute before a big upward swing tomorrow.