The biggest question facing the stock market lately has been whether economic growth will take hold in the U.S. and around the world. When good news has come out, such as the positive U.S. housing data that we've seen in recent weeks, markets have rallied. But today, as the tension in Europe and China's steps to rein in excesses in its property market add to the domestic pressure of the sequester, investors appear to be less excited about the market's prospects. As of 12:55 a.m. EST, the Dow Jones Industrials (DJINDICES:^DJI) are down 45 points, or 0.32%.
Within the Dow, economically sensitive stocks top the list of losers. Caterpillar has fallen the most, but United Technologies (NYSE:UTX) and Alcoa (NYSE:AA) have also suffered losses of more than 1%. United Tech announced some troubling news: Its Pratt & Whitney division says it has found evidence of fraudulent tests of jet engines at a different business unit under the United Tech corporate umbrella. With aircraft safety concerns having gotten a lot of attention lately, the news raises further questions about the industry's commitment to safety.
Meanwhile, Alcoa was noted in a New York Times article about private activity bonds, which are municipal bonds that private companies are allowed to tap. As the federal government looks for more tax revenue, such incentives may be first on the chopping block.
Beyond the Dow, Select Comfort (NASDAQ:SNBR) has plunged more than 16% after saying it would miss its internal goals for the first quarter, even though it doesn't provide formal guidance as such. With mattress makers having benefited from optimism about a recovering housing market, Select Comfort's news was far from welcome.
Finally, Hecla Mining (NYSE:HL) has sunk 13% after agreeing to buy gold miner Aurizon for $774 million. Gold-mining stocks have been hit hard, arguably making this a strong environment for acquisition activity, but investors appear to think that getting involved in what could become a bidding war for Aurizon isn't the best move for Hecla to make.
Fool contributor Dan Caplinger has no position in any stocks mentioned. You can follow him on Twitter @DanCaplinger. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.