Two Big Reasons the Dow's Flat Today

Your midday update tells you just why the market has done a whole lot of nothing.

Andrew Tonner
Andrew Tonner
Sep 18, 2012 at 12:30PM

Approaching midday, U.S. stock markets have done just about nothing. At the time of writing, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) had climbed 0.7 points higher for about a 0.01% gain. However, the other two main U.S. indexes, the Nasdaq and the S&P 500, are each trading slightly down on the day as well. The lack of activity has been further underscored by today's drop in the market's "fear gauge": the VIX (NYSEMKT:VXX), which also sits 0.9% lower as we approach noon.

What's driving the market
Don't let the lack of activity on the surface deceive you. There have been several major storylines, both positive and negative, that investors should certainly give credence to today.

Shares of shipping and logistics power FedEx (NYSE:FDX) currently hang 2.2% lower since the company reported dropping first-quarter fiscal profit. This alone is enough to alarm investors. But the company further startled the market by lowering its full-year guidance, as well. UPS (NYSE:UPS) also lowered its guidance earlier this year, further casting into doubt the strength of the U.S. recovery.

This is especially important, as the company's EPS performance often directionally tracks the overall movement of the U.S. economy, as you'll see below. If this holds true again, it could mean trouble for investors in the coming months.

Source: ZeroHedge.

On the positive side, a survey of U.S. homebuilders' confidence reached a six-year high, according to the National Association of Home Builders. This further underscores the growing pile of data suggesting that the housing market has indeed bottomed, which could help bolster America's weak economic recovery to some degree.

What's an investor to do?
Day to day, markets can send the prices of companies miles away from their actual worth. That's why investors will do well to invest in companies with sustainable business models that can perform well over the long term. The Fool recently highlighted three companies on the Dow that should easily stand the test of time. We break down their relative merits and weaknesses in our new research report, which you can grab for free today. Just click here to get started.