The Dow's Worst Losers Today

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As we've come to expect throughout earnings season, quarterly reports vied with broader news about Europe as well as concerns about the U.S. economy. But while the Dow Jones Industrials (INDEX: ^DJI) came back from much larger losses to finish down just 21 points at 12,633, several Dow component stocks posted much sharper declines.

Leading the Dow's decliners was ExxonMobil (NYS: XOM) , which closed down more than 2%. At first glance, the company seemed to post impressive results, with big gains in revenue and earnings that beat expectations. But as happened with Chevron, Exxon saw weakness in its refining operations, and with somewhat weaker production from the oil giant, investors bid the shares down.

On a day when Pfizer posted results, it was Merck (NYS: MRK) that saw bigger losses, falling 1.6%. Investors may be getting nervous in advance of Merck's own quarterly announcement coming Thursday, at which most expect CEO Kenneth Frazier to focus on its late-stage drug pipeline. In addition, details on the company's moves to cut costs could shed light on the possible impact those cuts could have on the company's long-term success.

Finally, Alcoa (NYS: AA) also took a 1.5% hit on Tuesday. The company likely responded to earnings from U.S. Steel (NYS: X) , which posted a net loss that was worse than analysts had expected. A combination of currency charges and European problems hit the steelmaker hard, and the same challenges that U.S. Steel had to deal with are also what Alcoa faces if it wants to recover from a horrible 2011.

What will Wednesday bring?
These stocks didn't do so well today, but what about tomorrow? Stay tuned to our earnings-season coverage. Also be sure to check out the Fool's "Fourth-Quarter Earnings Report: 7 Stocks You'll Want to Watch," where you'll find information on this quarter's possible big performers. It's completely free for our readers, so access your free report today.

At the time this article was published Fool contributorDan Caplingerknows today's losers can become tomorrow's winners. You can follow him onTwitter. He doesn't own shares of the companies mentioned in this article.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended buying shares of Pfizer and Chevron. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors. The Fool'sdisclosure policyis always a winner.

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