Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over daily movements, we do like to keep an eye on market changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.
August was an abysmal month for the Dow Jones Industrials (DJINDICES:^DJI), as the average closed the month with a loss of 690 points. The market hasn't dropped that dramatically since May 2012, but after an extended period of gains, even a correction of this magnitude shouldn't have surprised long-term investors. The potential for military action in the Middle East, combined with ongoing macroeconomic concerns throughout the globe, set the stage for falling stock markets.
With a 4% drop in the Dow, only one of its components was able to post a gain for the month. Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) soared more than 5%, with almost all of the games coming in the wake of the decision by CEO Steve Ballmer to resign within the next year. Investors have been impatient with the sluggish pace of Microsoft's growth, as rivals take bigger and faster steps to capitalize on opportunities in the rapidly expanding mobile market. But even as bulls hope that a leadership change will produce better results, shareholders shouldn't assume that a new leader will magically find solutions to the tech giant's woes.
Other Dow stocks couldn't avoid losses but managed to minimize them. Caterpillar (NYSE:CAT) fell just 0.4%, but the stock had been up significantly earlier in the month as the Chinese economy started to show some signs of life. Commodity prices started to recover during the month, which should improve prospects for Caterpillar's mining-equipment segment. Yet those prices remain at much lower levels compared to those earlier in the year, and without further recovery, it's uncertain whether mining companies will be willing to commit to major capital expenditures for new equipment.
Boeing (NYSE:BA) dropped 0.7% on the month, as the company managed to avoid any further bad news on the Dreamliner front. In fact, though, Boeing could actually benefit from some of the issues affecting the overall market, as military conflict could boost the defense side of its business and restore some lost revenue from Pentagon budget cuts in recent years.
Finally, DuPont (NYSE:DD) limited its losses to 1.1%. To a large extent, shareholders are in wait-and-see mode, hoping to discover how the chemical giant plans to sell off its Performance Chemicals segment in order to focus more on its higher-growth agricultural products business. Along those lines, DuPont's success in taking control of South African seed giant Pannar should put it in better position to expand its reach around the world in key agricultural markets, further boosting its profit potential in the long run.