Watching the daily motions of the Dow Jones Industrials (DJINDICES:^DJI) is unquestionably entertaining. But just like those who threw hundreds of dollars into the Powerball lottery earlier this week, focusing too much on the moves of a single hour can only give you a very limited insight into the markets.
In recent days, the Dow has seemingly moved up and down at the whim of politicians, with positive and negative comments bouncing back and forth, and pushing and pulling the market along with them. But to see the real reason why the Dow has moved, you have to look beyond its six-point gains this morning and gain some insight from this simple fact: For all the big moves the Dow has made this month, it's currently on pace to drop less than half a percent for November. Talk about sound and fury signifying nothing!
You can see the same daily ebbs and flows among individual stocks. Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ) has made big moves in both directions on various days, but the net effect over time has been huge losses for shareholders as the company continues to struggle for direction. Similarly, economically sensitive stock Caterpillar (NYSE:CAT) tends to rise and fall depending on the latest economic indicators that happen to come out on any given day, but it's well off its highs as persistent worries about the global economy have led both the company and its investors to reduce their long-term expectations of the business and the stock price.
Admittedly, looking at the stock market regularly is important, and sometimes, key pieces of news really do have potential to have long-term impacts on a stock. Outside the Dow today, Zynga (NASDAQ:ZNGA) is falling sharply after restructuring its relationship with Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) to allow it to host games outside of the social network's website. That relationship has huge implications for Zynga, as Fool contributor Evan Niu details in his premium report on the social gaming company, and so changes to it will have a big impact on the company going forward. But in the long run, whatever move Zynga's stock makes today will pale in comparison to its long-term rise or fall.