This Week's Top Stocks on the Dow

Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over market movements, we do like to keep an eye on big changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.

Even though we're in the middle of earnings season, emerging markets controlled the direction of the market this week, sending the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) down 1.14%. Over the past five years, investors flooded emerging markets with capital in search of yield that was hard to find in the United States. Now that the Federal Reserve is pulling back on monetary stimulus, the thought is that interest rates will rise and investors won't have to take the same risk to get yield as they did in emerging markets. This week, we saw that money flow begin, and that spooked investors, causing stocks to tumble. It's not something to be alarmed by, but it may have an impact on earnings for companies with a lot of international exposure.

Speaking of international exposure, Caterpillar (NYSE: CAT  ) led the Dow this week with a 9% gain. The company posted a 12% decline in revenue to $14.4 billion but earnings jumped 44% to $1.54 per share and management wasn't as pessimistic about the future as investors feared. Mining continues to be terrible, but that's expected, and investors were excited about the projection of 5% growth in construction equipment sales. Expectations were low enough for Caterpillar to jump over this quarter, but keep an eye on those emerging markets, because that's still where a lot of equipment demand is coming from.  

Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT  ) was the second best stock on the Dow, with a 2.8% gain this week. It appears that company veteran Satya Nadella is poised to become the next CEO after a six-month search for Steve Ballmer's replacement. This wouldn't signal a huge shift in Microsoft's strategy, but it at least would give the company some stability. There are also indications that Bill Gates may step down as chairman, which would give the new CEO some flexibility to change strategy.

Finally, United Technologies (NYSE: UTX  ) was up 2% after rumors swirled that it would sell or spin off its Sikorsky helicopter unit. So far, these are just rumors, and it would be a strange move, given that the economy is just picking up and defense spending cuts would already be priced into an asset sale. I think this was a rumor that won't go far and the trading reaction won't be long-lasting, but keep an eye on any comments regarding this during the next earnings conference call.

Ignore the market's noise
It's weeks like this that remind us how noisy the market can be. Earnings have been strong in the fourth quarter, yet stocks are down, so we need to keep an eye on the long-term prize. If you're looking for some long-term investing ideas, you're invited to check out The Motley Fool's brand-new special report, "The 3 Dow Stocks Dividend Investors Need." It's absolutely free, so simply click here now and get your copy today.


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