The Dow Breaks Its Streak but Holds 17,000 as Johnson & Johnson and AT&T Rise

The Dow Jones Industrials (DJINDICES: ^DJI  )  finally succumbed to gravity on Monday, falling 44 points and breaking a three-day streak of consecutive new all-time highs for the average. Yet even as nervous investors took profits after weighing the potential for future gains against the risk involved in the stock market, the Dow still managed to hang onto the 17,000 level. Instrumental in that effort were Johnson & Johnson  (NYSE: JNJ  ) and AT&T  (NYSE: T  ) , which were among the best performers in the Dow today.

Johnson & Johnson's 1% gain was almost a mirror image of the health-care giant's performance last week, when J&J shares actually lost ground even as the Dow rocketed to new highs. Investors have traditionally seen Johnson & Johnson as a defensive stock, with patients and medical professionals relying on its pharmaceuticals and medical devices even as consumers seek out its long line of over-the-counter products. With a solid history of dividend payments to shareholders, J&J inspires enough confidence among investors that the stock current fetches more than 20 times trailing earnings, despite the fact that its growth hasn't been as strong as it was in the past. Nevertheless, many people are impressed with Johnson & Johnson's pharmaceutical division, which has made some smart strategic moves to put itself among the leaders in the fast-growing industry.

AT&T gained half a percent as investors applauded an analyst's upbeat assessment of the Dow telecom giant's future prospects. AT&T has said that it intends to spend about $21 billion on capital-spending projects this year, as it seeks to expand and improve the quality of its wireless network across the country. Given rival Verizon's full takeover of its Verizon Wireless division, AT&T needs to answer the challenge that Verizon has made with upgrades to its service, and the analyst from Barclays believes that AT&T might well end up spending more than that huge sum on capital expenditures. Given its intended $48.5 billion merger with DirecTV, AT&T has some investors worried that it could become too profligate in its spending, building up debt when interest rates are expected to rise dramatically over the next few years. But given the huge amount that AT&T has been able to return to shareholders in the form of dividends, investors should be pleased at the notion that the telecom company believes it can earn better returns on investment in its own business than it will pay in interest.

Even though the Dow Jones Industrials fell back from their all-time record highs Monday, it's far too early to draw any conclusions about an extended downward move. Indeed, with the Dow having held onto 17,000, the market's bullish psychology appears to remain in full force at least for now.

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