Why These 3 Dow Stocks Fell Today

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Early in the day, optimism about employment figures and retail sales overcame nervousness about consumer spending to push the stock market upward. But later, reports of a Saudi pipeline fire sent oil prices soaring through the $110-per-barrel mark, and the market gave up most of its gains. In the end, the Dow Jones Industrials (INDEX: ^DJI) eked out a gain of 28 points on the day, finishing at 12,980.

Even with broader gains for the market, several Dow stocks lost ground today. Let's look at three of them.

Procter & Gamble (NYSE: PG), down 1.5%
P&G is known for its high-profile brands, many of which have generated billions in sales. But that doesn't mean everything it does is an instant success. Today, the company said that it had sold its NutriStar drink-mix business to Albion Labs. The powdered drink mix was created more than 10 years ago with the intent of providing a nutritious beverage to children in emerging markets.

Obviously, a small item like this wasn't enough to account for a big down-move for the stock. But it serves as a reminder that even giant companies have misses with some product lines.

Merck (NYSE: MRK), down 1.0%
After a big run-up late last year, Merck shares have been roughly flat so far in 2012. The company's long-term fight to find new drugs to replace those with expiring patents will continue well into the future.

One such battle should get closer to resolution later this month, when an FDA advisory committee looks at sarcoma drug ridaforolimus, for which Merck is partnering with Ariad Pharmaceuticals (NAS: ARIA) . With favorable phase 3 trial results for the drug, the companies are clearly expecting a successful outcome for the cancer treatment.

Caterpillar (NYSE: CAT), down 0.7%
Caterpillar has seen immense growth overseas, and the company is clearly interested in directing further investment abroad as well. The heavy-machinery maker said that it would buy out Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and its interest in its Caterpillar Japan joint venture, giving Caterpillar full control of the business.

A greater presence in Japan will bolster Caterpillar's attempt to grow in Asia's emerging markets, as well as Russia and some of the former Soviet republics. The Asia-Pacific region already makes up about a quarter of Caterpillar's revenue, and that could easily increase if Chinese economic activity picks up.

Get out of the loss column
Even with some Dow stocks falling, you can find winners if you broaden your search. We've got one stock we're especially excited about, as the Fool's chief investment officer picked it to crush the market. To learn more about it, check out this free report: "The Motley Fool's Top Stock for 2012." Instant access is just a click away.

At the time this article was published Fool contributorDan Caplingerdoesn't own shares of the companies mentioned. You can follow him on Twitterhere.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended buying shares of Procter & Gamble. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors. The Fool has adisclosure policy.

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