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Stock Markets Stuck in Neutral After Earnings Send Mixed Messages

By Travis Hoium - Apr 24, 2013 at 3:33PM

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Today's earnings reports didn't give investors a great "buy" or "sell" sign.

We're in the midst of earnings season, and investors don't quite know what to take from the reports out today. Boeing's (BA 3.52%) stock is up 2.6% on strong results, AT&T (T -0.14%) met expectations and the stock dropped 5.2%, and Procter & Gamble's (PG 1.53%) weak guidance sent the stock 5% lower. Add it all up and you have a lot of movement among individual stocks, but broader markets have gone almost nowhere. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (^DJI 1.76%) has fallen just 0.16% near the end of trading, and the S&P 500 (^GSPC 2.47%) is up 0.14%.

Boeing's big move was driven by an earnings beat on both the top and bottom lines. Revenue fell 2.5% in the first quarter to $18.89 billion, but that was still ahead of the $18.8 billion estimate from Wall Street. When you pull out one-time items like pension fluctuations, the company made a profit of $1.73 per share, well ahead of the $1.49 estimate. Lower government spending is hurting the company's revenue, but it Boeing has done a good job controlling costs, especially when you consider the challenges the 787 Dreamliner has gone through recently. 

AT&T is selling off on more evidence that the company is falling behind Verizon Wireless. Mobile-phone sales rose 3.4% to $16.7 billion in the quarter, whereas analysts expected 5.4% growth, and the company lost share to Verizon Wireless. The challenge for AT&T is that Verizon's network is larger, attracting more customers who are willing to pay for better service. To catch up, AT&T will have to spend billions of dollars upgrading its network, which would have negative near-term implications. AT&T isn't a bad company right now; it's just that Verizon Wireless is better. 

Procter & Gamble's move was the most concerning for those looking at the overall economy. Organic growth was just 3% during the quarter, and net sales rose just 2% to $20.6 billion. This fell just short of estimates, and a cautious outlook has investors running for the hills today. Let's put the company's results into perspective, though. P&G makes consumer staples that may not be growing rapidly, but they aren't in decline either. The stock trades at 18 times earnings and pays a 3% dividend yield, so investors are getting a stable company and a payout 50% higher than Treasuries. It wasn't a good quarter for P&G, but it's not a quarter long-term investors should panic over, either. 

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Stocks Mentioned

Dow Jones Industrial Average (Price Return) Stock Quote
Dow Jones Industrial Average (Price Return)
$33,212.96 (1.76%) $575.77
S&P 500 Index - Price Return (USD) Stock Quote
S&P 500 Index - Price Return (USD)
$4,158.24 (2.47%) $100.40
The Boeing Company Stock Quote
The Boeing Company
$132.23 (3.52%) $4.50
AT&T Inc. Stock Quote
AT&T Inc.
$21.29 (-0.14%) $0.03
The Procter & Gamble Company Stock Quote
The Procter & Gamble Company
$148.72 (1.53%) $2.24

*Average returns of all recommendations since inception. Cost basis and return based on previous market day close.

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