It was announced today that the University of Michigan's preliminary Consumer Confidence Index dropped unexpectedly to its lowest level since December 2011. The reading fell from last month's 72.9 to 71.3, whereas it was forecast to climb as high as 75 by economists surveyed by Bloomberg. The drop is believed to be caused by the expiration of the payroll tax cut and the reinstatement of the 6.4% Social Security tax, which went into effect at the beginning of the year. During the most recent recession, from December 2007 to June 2009, the index averaged 64.2 after five years averaging 89.

At this time is doesn't seem investors are too concerned about the lower reading. As of 12:40 p.m. EST, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) is down just 15 points, or 0.11%, to 13,581. Half of the index's 30 components are trading lower, and four of them are down more than 1%. Three of the biggest losers are American Express (NYSE:AXP), Bank of America (NYSE:BAC), and Intel (NASDAQ:INTC).

So why are they down?
In American Express' earnings release last night, the company announced that fourth-quarter income fell by 47%. While the credit card company posted earnings per share of $1.09 before excluding one-time items, the company actually earned just $0.56 per share, or $637 million. Revenue of $8.14 billion matched expectations, but the one-time write-offs seem to be the only thing investors are focusing on today, as shares are down 2.7%.

Bank of America is struggling again. The shares, having lost 3.5% yesterday, are down another 1.2% today. Morgan Stanley announced earnings this morning, and shares are up more than 7.3% on the company's results. The favorable earnings results from Morgan Stanley may be scaring Bank of America investors today as they wonder why their company couldn't also deliver.

Shares of Intel are tanking today after the company announced earnings after yesterday's market close. The company managed to beat analyst's expected earnings by $0.03 per share and match revenue at $13.5 billion, which happened to fall by 3%. So why are shares down more than 6.3% today, given that earnings were in line with or better than expectations? Net income fell by 27% from the previous year, and the company plans to spend $13 billion on new plants and equipment. Analysts were expecting that number to be closer to $10 billion, and most are wondering how Intel will pay for this while maintaining its dividend and share buyback programs as demand for the company's bread-and-butter business, personal-computer chips, falters.

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