The Dow Struggles as Nike Eyes Earnings

The major U.S. stock indices are all in the red as of 2:30 p.m., but the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) has rallied back from a triple-digit plunge to land at just 29 points in negative territory. Most of its 30 member stocks are trailing so far. Nike  (NYSE: NKE  )  was just under breakeven as investors wait eagerly for the athletics giant's quarterly earnings after the closing bell. Meanwhile, General Mills (NYSE: GIS  ) has moved higher by 0.6% after reporting its own quarterly results. Let's catch up on what you need to know.

Will Nike top expectations?

Source: Nike Media Gallery

Nike is projected to report year-over-year revenue growth of 9.6%, though analysts estimate that net profit will take a hit. The athletic-gear maker offered up strong sales growth recently, with 13% year-over-year revenue growth in its preceding quarter. However, investors don't just want to see overall strength from this global power: They want to see emerging market growth that can outperform recent lackluster results in top developing markets.

The company recorded growth of 8% in emerging markets in its last quarter, with 9% sales growth in the highly valued Chinese market. While that's not awful, those numbers have trailed Nike's success in Western Europe and North America as of late. Though Nike's overall position as the worldwide leader in its industry means that this stock is still a strong pick, hard-charging competitors such as Under Armour (NYSE: UA  ) are pressing in on the company's advantage. If Nike rebounds in China, however, this company will be primed for big-time success through the rest of 2014.

General Mills hasn't taken a hit after its own earnings failed to impress. The food products company reported that revenue declined by nearly 3% in its fiscal fourth quarter; despite net income climbing more than 10% year over year, General Mills lagged analyst expectations. The company is looking to rectify that disappointment by pushing healthier foods to customers in order to capitalize on growing health trends, and it also hopes to see savings of up to $400 million by next year through its ongoing cost-reduction plan. Cost-cutting has been a big weapon among players in the packaged-foods industry as sales have snagged. While General Mills is hopeful about its future, downbeat grocery sales across the U.S. likely will continue to weigh on the company's results in the near future. Don't expect this stock -- or its rivals -- to emerge as growth mavens any time soon.

Shares of aluminum producer and former Dow member Alcoa (NYSE: AA  )  rose by 2.7% after a major acquisition. Alcoa snapped up aerospace parts manufacturer Firth Rixson in a deal worth more than $2.8 billion. It's a huge deal for a company that has faced weakness in the materials sector as of late: Commercial aerospace has boomed as emerging markets have bolstered global airline traffic, and Alcoa projects commercial jet growth of 7% per year through 2019. It also sees Firth Rixson's own growth climbing by 12% annually through that time. Alcoa's stock has performed exceptionally year to date, but this deal should add another spark into that mojo.

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