Year to date, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) is up 10.6%. While most market participants don't believe this run can last much longer -- and some even believe the index will now move horizontally for the better part of the year -- even if that's the case, it will be a strong year for equities. With the average yearly return falling around 7%, most investors would happily take a 10% return any year.
But one problem this year is that investors were handed the big return so quickly that they will likely become inpatient later in the year and perhaps begin trading or participating in other costly market activities.
Long-term investors need to remember that patience and time are your friends. Case in point: Had you sold yesterday when the Dow was down 80 points in an attempt to time the market correction, you would have missed today's 77-point rise.
Today's Dow downers
The Dow's biggest loser today is UnitedHealth (NYSE:UNH). The health care company is down 1.1%, with very little news pertaining to the company today. But with big changes coming to the health care industry through Obamacare and even the proposed payments under Medicare, a massive amount of uncertainty surrounds the company.
For this reason, new investors should stay away from the company until its future is clearer, but current shareholders with a long horizon should sit tight until further information is available. Buying or selling without the full story is like stock-picking by throwing darts at a board.
Year to date, shares of Caterpillar are down 2.5%, even though they are up 0.8% today. Caterpillar has seen sales slow down over the past few months, which has likely caused the stock price to falter. Most recently, Caterpillar released poor sales results on Wednesday, which sent shares falling as much as 1.7% during intraday trading. In a three-month rolling period ending in February, sales were down 13%, compared with a 4% drop for the previous time period ending in January. The company's Asia-Pacific market experienced a sales decline of 26%, while the North American region saw sales contract 12%.
China has also been a soft spot for Alcoa, which has lost 2.7% year to date. China has been the world's largest consumer for aluminum for quite some time, but the country still can't seem to use the raw material fast enough. Stockpiles of aluminum throughout the country have increased by 50% over the past year, and this is causing the price of the metal to decline. Over the past year alone, aluminum prices on the London Exchange have fallen more than 7.7%.
Fool contributor Matt Thalman has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends UnitedHealth Group. Check back Monday through Friday as Matt explains what caused the Dow's winners and losers of the day, and every Saturday for a weekly recap. Follow Matt on Twitter: @mthalman5513. 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.