The Dow Jones Industrials (DJINDICES: ^DJI ) had posted a modest 20-point drop as of 11 a.m. EDT Friday. On the economic front, the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan Index of Consumer Sentiment for June rose to 82.5, better than the 81.9 that many had expected. Yet the onset of earnings season also caused some company-specific moves among the Dow 30, with DuPont (NYSE: DD ) falling sharply but Nike (NYSE: NKE ) gaining ground today.
DuPont shares plunged 4% after the chemical giant last night reduced its guidance on earnings for the full year, noting that its key agricultural business wasn't performing as well as the company had expected. DuPont has slowly moved away from lesser-performing business lines in order to emphasize the high-growth ag segment. But this quarter, that strategy wasn't a winning move, with DuPont having failed to anticipate a shift among U.S. farmers away from corn toward soybean planting that left the Dow component with too much unsold seed inventory. DuPont's long-suffering performance chemicals segment is also contributing to the earnings shortfall as prices for key products fall. With many investors having seen the agricultural business as being an unstoppable source of growth, DuPont's warning could put a big dent in the prospects for the company's future if it can't avoid similar events in the future.
Meanwhile, Nike climbed almost 2% as the Dow's first earnings report of the new quarter showed substantial strength in developed economies. Nike saw sales from the western part of Europe jump 18% on a currency-neutral basis in its fourth quarter, helping to close its market-share gap on the continent against rival Adidas, and North American sales climbed by double-digit percentages as well. As you'd expect, Nike spent a lot of money on advertising and other marketing expenses as it seeks to take advantage of the opportunity offered by the World Cup to boost its reputation worldwide. Those higher expenses continue into this quarter as well, but the payoff could last for years as orders for future delivery jumped 12% worldwide on a currency-neutral basis. In North America, the fact that both the U.S. and Mexico have advanced into the knockout stage of the soccer championship could boost Nike's prospects even further as more people get exposure to the sport and seek to buy related products.
Expect earnings to have a much larger impact on the Dow going forward. With expectations on the rise, any shortfalls like DuPont's could start to take the wind out of bullish investors' sails and raise more serious questions about whether a Dow correction could finally be near.
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