Will the Dow Jones Slip Below 17,000 Tomorrow After Today's Drop?

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) isn't feeling very patriotic as markets kick back into gear following a long Fourth of July weekend. The index fell 0.3%, leaving it just 24 points over the 17,000-point threshold it smashed past last Thursday, after dangling beneath that milestone several times on an unremittingly negative trading day. It was only the eighth down day for the Dow since the beginning of June, but it also extends to 30 the number of trading days since the index last moved by a full percentage point in one session.

With little macroeconomic news on offer today, markets moved instead with fatigue as investors chose to sit out the grinding, joyless ride higher that the Dow has taken since dropping below 15,500 points in early February. First-half leaders and laggards alike helped pull the Dow down today. Caterpillar (NYSE: CAT  ) was the Dow's biggest winner in the first half of 2014; however, among companies with $100-plus share prices, Its 0.9% decline today was surpassed only by Goldman Sachs' 1% drop, which is just par for the course for what was the second-worst Dow stock in the first six months of 2014. Goldman will report its earnings next Tuesday, and Caterpillar is up in two and a half weeks, so investors may simply be bracing for disappointment in advance.

Molten aluminum. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Tomorrow will also be light on the macro front, with consumer credit the only closely watched indicator set to report. This number could dent investor confidence if it's too large, but might also hinder gains if it's too small, so there's not a lot of upside to that report. Wednesday brings the June minutes from the Federal Open Market Committee meeting, but the results of that meeting were already well publicized after the session wrapped up nearly three weeks ago.

The real macro-focused market mover this week may prove to be Alcoa's (NYSE: AA  ) earnings, which will be released after the market closes on Wednesday. The aluminum giant's quarterly progress has often served as a bellwether of American industry, and with no Dow component scheduled to report earnings this week, it's likely to be the most relevant piece of news investors will get all week. Alcoa has already surged nearly 40% this year, and its second-quarter earnings per share are expected to come in at $0.13, which would be its highest quarterly EPS result in several years. A whiff here could cause a cascade of disappointment that sends the Dow back below 17,000 points.

Source: Wikimedia Commons.

There was also little positive movement today on the broader S&P 500, which fell 0.4% and which saw only two stocks out of 500 -- PetSmart (NASDAQ: PETM  ) and Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL  ) -- gain more than 2%.

PetSmart finished with a modest 2.5% pop, continuing a recent surge driven by major investors Jana Partners and Longview Asset Management, which have have begun to publicly petition management to return more cash to shareholders. Jana led the charge last week, and Longview today called for PetSmart to explore its options, which might include a sale, a boost to its dividend payouts, or an accelerated share buyback program. Jana and Longview may take an activist stake on PetSmart's board to force the issue.

Apple was up 2.1% at the end of trading. The tech giant seems to be gaining on excitement surrounding the impending launch of the iPhone 6, which could be the company's most important product launch since the first iPad came out in 2010.

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