Today's Results Don't Tarnish Dow's Strong Month

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January is in the books and the first month of 2012 put on quite a performance, even by historical standards. But before we could relegate it to history, the final trading session of the month was filled with activity featuring several prominent earnings releases, positive vibes coming out of Greece, and negativity swirling here at home over U.S. housing prices and consumer confidence.

But before we jump into the day's events, let's see how the three largest indices fared:

 

Gain / Loss

Gain / Loss %

Ending Value

Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI) (20.81)(0.16%)12,632.91
Nasdaq (INDEX: ^IXIC) 1.900.07%2,813.84
S&P 500 (INDEX: ^GSPC) (0.60)(0.05%)1,312.41

Source: Yahoo! Finance.

The markets opened up on news that a deal between Greece and its private creditors was closer to resolution after stalling out last week, but then the dual release of the Case-Shiller index showing single-family home price declines and a significantly lower consumer confidence number than anticipated -- 61 versus 68 -- sent the markets lower.

Despite a decidedly mixed trading session, all three indices finished the month in impressively positive territory. The Dow and the S&P 500 had their largest monthly percentage gains since 1997 at 3.4% and 4.4%, respectively. And the Nasdaq topped them both, featuring a go-go dotcom-era-like 8% gain, its best performance since 2001. The thirty Dow stocks ended up nearly evenly divided in gainers and decliners, with poor quarterly results responsible for the worst performance in the index, that of ExxonMobil (NYS: XOM) .

The biggest of Big Oil reported results that saw the top line grow 16%, beating analyst estimates, but shares were punished with a 2% drop. Why? Like its integrated competitors, refining operations weighed on results, but the real culprit is the alarming 9% decline in production surprised the markets and has led to concern over the upstream portion of the business.

The other Dow component reporting today, Pfizer, reported a first quarter in which top drug Lipitor was subjected to generic competition. As anticipated, both revenue and earnings saw a decline, but on an adjusted basis the bottom line fared significantly better. Up next for Pfizer: deciding how best to divest its Animal Health and Nutrition businesses, but in the meantime investors get to enjoy the $5 billion in share buybacks and $6 billion in dividends the company plans to shell out in 2012.

After hours, Amazon.com (NAS: AMZN) is the big story, as shares plunged 9% after reporting a 57% plunge in profits. Even worse, the online retailer mentioned that a possible dip into the red for the upcoming quarter was on the table, putting its guidance between a $100 million gain to a $200 million loss. Considering the company's already lofty earnings multiples, shares may have a rough go of it tomorrow.

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At the time this article was published David Williamson owns shares of Pfizer, but he holds no other position in any company mentioned. Click here to see his holdings and a short bio. The Motley Fool owns shares of Amazon.com. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Amazon.com and Pfizer. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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