So far in 2014, the Dow Jones Industrials (DJINDICES: ^DJI ) haven't been able to produce the kind of returns that investors have come to expect from the stock market benchmark in recent years. As the quarter comes to a close tomorrow, the Dow has lost 1.5% since its all-time record high level at the end of 2013. Over the past three months, Boeing (NYSE: BA ) , Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS ) , and General Electric (NYSE: GE ) have produced the biggest drag on the Dow. Let's look at what these companies have done to hold the Dow back.
Boeing fell more than 8%, with most of the damage coming after the aerospace giant's late-January earnings report. Even though fourth-quarter revenue rose 6%, producing a gain in core earnings of almost 30%, Boeing gave full-year 2014 guidance that fell short of what investors had expected from the company. Despite rising tensions in Ukraine, Boeing pointed to potential Defense Department budget cuts that could weigh on overall results. The bigger question for Boeing, though, is whether it can sustain the rising production rates that it has tried to implement. If it can, then delivery rates should continue to climb, and that in turn should help Boeing fend off the challenges that rival Airbus has presented recently in booking orders in key areas like the Asia-Pacific region.
Goldman also weighed in with an 8% loss as investors have questioned whether the premier Wall Street investment bank will ever return to its former glory. After initially recovering quickly during 2009 following the financial crisis, Goldman has missed out on the impressive gains that most of its banking peers have posted since then. Yet even though a rise in IPO activity has helped its investment-banking division and despite broad gains in its investing and lending division in its most recent quarter, Goldman still hasn't inspired investor confidence in its future plan. Moreover, even though the bank passed the Fed's latest round of stress tests and had its capital plan approved, Goldman required revisions from its initial capital submission -- suggesting that the company overestimated its financial health in making its initial Fed request.
General Electric fell almost 7%, again with most of its declines coming after its mid-January earnings report. At first glance, it's hard to find fault with the General Electric report, as overall sales climbed 3% and operating profits jumped 20%. In particular, GE's industrial segment has been an important part of its overall growth, and profits rising by 12% showed the wisdom of that approach. Yet GE's strength could prove to be its weakness if macroeconomic conditions deteriorate overseas, and that's a rising concern given recent reports from China.
Admittedly, if it weren't for the declines in Boeing, Goldman Sachs, and General Electric, the Dow would almost have managed to break even for the quarter. But the bigger question for long-term investors is whether these three companies will bounce back and be able to provide leadership for the Dow during the remainder of 2014.
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