This morning the University of Michigan released it preliminary February reading on consumer sentiment in the U.S. Analysts were expecting a reading of 74.8 after January came in at 73.8, but investors were greeted with an impressive rise to 76.3. But the report also indicated that concerns about inflation were quickly increasing. The survey director, Richard Curtin, noted that "even the current low rate of inflation is dramatically higher than the zero growth rate expected for household income."
Perhaps investors are beginning to share consumers' worries about inflation today; as of 12:50 p.m. EST. the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) has given up the morning's minor gains and fallen a nominal five points. The other major indexes are similarly listless, with the S&P 500 down just more than a point and the NASDAQ down about two points. The Dow now sits at 13,967, and its 30 components are roughly split between risers and fallers.
So who's down and why?
Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) is leading all Dow losers today, down 1.9%. The company's British arm Asda reported yesterday that it had discovered traces of horse DNA in products on its shelves. Europe's growing horsemeat problem has taken off over the past few days, and consumers are becoming increasingly concerned. How this will ultimately effect Wal-Mart is unclear at this time, but once a company loses the trust of its consumers, it's usually difficult to mend that relationship.
Another big Dow loser today is Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ), whose shares have fallen by 1.2% thus far today -- odd, as there's no negative news pertaining to the company today. Furthermore, my Fool Colleague Rick Aristotle Munarriz named the company in his "Top 5 Smartest Stock Moves" article this week after reports emerged that HP would soon be releasing an Android-powered tablet. Additionally, the idea of an HP-Andriod smartphone has also been thrown around. An HP-Andriod relationship would be nothing but good for the struggling PC company and could be what is needed to revive what looked like a dying company just a few months ago.
Lastly, shares of DuPont (NYSE:DD) are down 1%. A recent increase on insider trading may have some investors fleeing the stock today. Over the last two months, company insiders have sold more than 184,000 shares, while over the past nine months insiders have purchased zero shares. Furthermore, during the last seven months of 2012, insiders sold more than 118,000 shares.