Why the Dow Fell Today

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The Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI) finished the day down after a report from the National Association of Realtors said that U.S. existing-home sales fell 0.9% to a seasonally adjusted 4.59 million.

Index

Change

Ending Value

Dow Jones Industrial Average-45.57 [-0.35%]13,124.62
S&P 500 (INDEX: ^GSPC) +5.58 [-0.19%]1,402.89

The news this morning was not exactly bad, but not exactly good. January existing-home sales were bumped to a seasonally adjusted 4.63 million, up from a report of 4.57 million last month. February home sales were down month over month and slightly below analyst forecasts; however, existing-home sales were still at their highest levels of the past five years.

While sales were slightly down, other data out this week points to an improving picture in the housing market. Yesterday in a joint release, the Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development reported that building permits rose 5% in February. Investors will get more housing news later this week, with the Federal Housing Finance Agency's home-price index coming out tomorrow at 10 a.m. and data on new-home sales on Friday.

Top winner
Home Depot
(NYS: HD) was today's top Dow stock, up 0.83% to $49.79. Increased building is a great sign for Home Depot, and the company was up for the second day in a row on the positive data. Fool analyst Sean Williams recently called Home Depot a great dividend stock you could buy right now. He believes Home Depot will do well no matter which way housing numbers go, as any activity in the housing market is good for the company. Its earnings report last month bears this view out, with the company beating expectations on revenue and earnings, with improving margins as dessert.

Top loser
Hewlett-Packard
  (NYS: HPQ) was today's worst Dow stock, down 2.17% to $23.46. Last night, the company announced a merger of its flailing PC and printer divisions in an attempt to cut costs. Fool analyst Rich Smith is less than impressed and believes this is little more than an effort to make the PC division look better than it really is. Investors shared a similar sentiment and sent the shares down on a largely positive day for tech stocks. The printing division is Hewlett-Packard's strongest business, with a 42% market share.

The best approach
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At the time this article was published Dan Dzombakholds no position in any company mentioned.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended buying shares of Home Depot. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy.

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