American markets are having a very difficult time pushing higher of late. Entering the month of April, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) very nearly broke through to a fresh all-time high, with its April 2 close of 16,573 points a hair's breadth away from the 16,576.66 points reached on the last trading day of 2013. However, the Dow and the broader S&P 500 (SNPINDEX:^GSPC) have spent much of April roaring like a lamb -- both indices have been on a downward trend, with only brief upticks, since the almost-record at the start of the month:
Today's performance seems destined to continue that trend. Heading into lunchtime, the Dow and S&P fell from early pops into shallow declines. Both were hovering in the range of a 0.3% loss. However, they are avoiding the fate of the more speculative Nasdaq Composite (NASDAQINDEX: ^IXIC), which continues to suffer a sharp reversal -- it's down 1% this morning -- after providing by far the strongest gains of the three major indices in 2013 and early 2014:
No Dow component is suffering any particularly glaring weakness -- none of its 30 components had fallen to a full 1% or greater loss before noon -- but the index's clear standout is Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO), which has by far the best performance on both the Dow and the S&P 500 today with a 3.8% gain.
The world's largest drink purveyor reported its first-quarter financial results this morning, and investors chose to overlook declining top and bottom lines to focus instead on the fact that revenue, which declined 4% year over year to $10.58 billion, was nonetheless better than the $10.55 billion Wall Street analysts had expected. Coke's adjusted earnings of $0.44 per share (generally accepted accounting principles earnings were $0.36 per share) fell in line with analyst expectations. Today's pop seems somewhat inexplicable in light of the fact that Coke's carbonated soft-drink volumes fell 2% last year, and especially considering that both Coke's revenue and EPS have been effectively flat for two years (these metrics have actually been in decline since the start of 2013):
Unfortunately, Coke's smaller share price -- it's 25th out of the Dow's 30 components in total weighting -- gives it a reduced ability to move the index. However, many of the Dow's triple-digit stocks are trading within a narrow enough band to prevent a steeper decline. About 190 of the S&P's 500 components were in positive territory this morning, but the index's decline is thus far being paced by Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), which is nearly counterweighting Coke's gain with its 2.9% drop. Investors don't seem too confident in the social network's latest effort to become a payments platform, which it should soon roll out now that it has regulatory clearance to set up shop in Ireland, a well-known tech-friendly tax haven. Yesterday's news that Google had scooped Facebook in the acquisition of a drone manufacturer doesn't seem to be well-received by the latter's investors, either, and Google itself has dropped about 1.6% this morning. Are investors starting to fear Big G's transformation into Skynet? If your name is Sarah Connor, you might want to avoid visiting Mountain View for a while.