Why Caterpillar, IBM, and Exxon Mobil Held Back the Dow This Week

The Dow Jones Industrials (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) had a strong week to finish the month of May, with the average emerging at an all-time record closing high on Friday. Gains in the Dow have been broad-based, with the vast majority of Dow component stocks rising for the week. But the Dow did leave a few lagging stocks behind, with Caterpillar (NYSE: CAT  ) , IBM (NYSE: IBM  ) , and ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM  ) among the stocks that posted declines on an otherwise positive day for the market.

Source: Caterpillar.

Caterpillar fell 1.7% on the week, with most of the decline coming on Friday after Chief Information Officer Randy Krotowski announced that he would resign effective June 1. The CIO had only been with Caterpillar for two years, but the drop in the stock's price suggests how sensitive shareholders are to any signs of problems at the company. Still, Caterpillar's stock hadn't performed well even before the announcement, as the Dow component continues to struggle with weak demand for its heavy equipment, especially among mining-industry customers. The key to a Caterpillar rebound will likely be in North America, where conditions in the construction industry have improved dramatically and where prospects for future growth look most promising.

IBM declined 0.9% as investors reacted to the tech giant's investor day during the preceding week with a lack of enthusiasm. Even as IBM seeks to replace falling revenue from its hardware segment with higher-margin software and services, the Dow component faces ever-stronger competition from other tech companies with similar pedigrees of IT success. IBM's area of strength is in business analytics, as the big-data movement continues to draw enterprise customer demand. Even there, though, IBM's responsive investment in its Watson supercomputer line and other big-data initiatives involve substantial risks. Moreover, with IBM facing some security concerns about whether foreign buyers can trust its hardware not to be monitored by U.S. intelligence agencies, the Dow component will need to work to retain its strong international reputation.

Source: ExxonMobil.

ExxonMobil was down 0.8% despite moving forward with its partnership with Russian oil giant Rosneft on its planned Arctic drilling projects. Many had feared that Exxon would face a work stoppage or even forfeiture of its huge investment in Russia, but since sanctions don't yet cover Rosneft, Exxon was in a position to reaffirm its commitment to the project. Given the challenges that ExxonMobil has faced in coming up with economically viable new sources of oil and gas production, it's important for the oil giant to take advantage of every opportunity it has. Moreover, with an agreement to build a liquefied natural gas plant on the eastern coast of Russia, ExxonMobil will help Russia make greater use of its natural-gas resources and serve energy-hungry customers on the Pacific Rim. Still, with uncertainty about whether geopolitical events will stymie Exxon's efforts, shareholders remain nervous about the future.

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