Dow Jones Lower as Stocks Diverge

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 Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) was down just 22 points, to 15,771, at 1:30 p.m. on a slow day for economic news. Thirteen of the 30 Dow stocks were up in early afternoon trading. The S&P 500 (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC  ) was down less than 1 point to 1,796.

Disney (NYSE: DIS  ) is today's top Dow Jones stock, up 1.7% to $76.95. Disney jumped late last week after reporting better than expected earnings on the strength of the animated movie Frozen. The stock continues to rise this week after Frozen debuted in China. Also, Variety magazine reported that Disney's Marvel is in talks to make a follow-up to April's Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Fool Consumer Goods analyst Michael Finarelli recently gave his take on whether now is the time to invest in Disney. You can see him give his thoughts here.

Worth watching
Carl Icahn announced today he is dropping his proposal for Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL  ) to repurchase $50 billion in stock in 2014 after proxy adviser Institutional Shareholder Services advised investors to vote against the buyback proposal. It's not really a loss for Icahn, however. If you combine the pace at which Apple has been purchasing shares, about $5 billion a quarter, and last week's announcement of the company's $14 billion worth of buybacks after its worse than expected earnings report, Apple is on schedule to reclaim $34 billion worth of stock in 2014. Even afterward, Apple would still be sitting on roughly $150 billion in cash. I continue to believe Apple should do a special dividend of a large proportion of that cash to shareholders, as that is a far better use of the money than buying back stock while Apple is achieving near-record earnings.

In other news, Congress' debt limit suspension from March ended on Friday. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew sent a letter to Congress saying that his department would likely run out of money around Feb. 27. The market fully expects Congress will raise the debt limit, as Republican politicians saw a steep drop in approval in October when they were willing to risk a debt default. Warren Buffett has likened a U.S. debt default to a "nuclear bomb." I expect Congress will raise the debt ceiling, but you can never rule out a surprise from lawmakers.

Foolish last words
In both the public and private sectors, governance functions best when stakeholders educate themselves, take an active interest in what's going on, and hold their representatives accountable.

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