What to Watch For From the Dow Today

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The Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI) didn't have the best day yesterday, dropping 0.54% after the Department of Commerce reported that orders for durable goods rose 2.2% in February, lower than the 2.9% that economists expected. It's no coincidence that the Dow companies perhaps most exposed to the global economic cycle were the biggest Dow losers yesterday, with Caterpillar (NYS: CAT) , Alcoa (NYS: AA) down 3.5% and 2.3%, respectively.

But today is a new day, and investors will be hoping that new economic reports released this morning can help erase yesterday's losses.

What to watch today
Investors will surely be watching the Department of Labor's weekly report on initial jobless claims. This metric shows the number of claims filed by individuals seeking state jobless benefits. A lower number correlates with an improving economy, and vice versa. Last week, claims for unemployment benefits fell to a seasonally adjusted 348,000, the lowest level since February 2008. Economists are expecting jobless claims to come in today at 350,000, up slightly from last week. Also today, the Labor Department will release revised claims data from 2007 through 2011 and new seasonal factors for 2012.


Perhaps more importantly, the Department of Commerce will release its GDP and GDP Deflator third estimates for the fourth quarter. This report is important because the GDP is the broadest measure of economic activity and is a key indicator of the country's financial health. The GDP Deflator measures the level of prices, converted into constant dollars, of all new final goods and services produced in the United States. Estimates for both the GDP and GDP Deflator aren't expected to change much from the last report, at 3% and 0.9%, respectively.

These two reports will go a long way in helping determine whether the Dow can bounce back today, or whether the markets will decline for the sixth time in eight days.

Earnings
Outside the Dow, there are some earnings reports that investors will be watching closely. Research In Motion (NAS: RIMM) will release its first earnings since Thorsten Heins became CEO in January. Investors will be looking for any signs of a rebound as the company continues to lose market share to Apple's iPhone and Google Android-enabled smartphones. In retail, Best Buy (NYS: BBY) will also report earnings today. Investors will be anxious to see whether the company was able to improve sales the rest of the quarter after a disappointing holiday season.

The big picture
While it's important to pay close attention to the market, it's also important to not to get too worked up about what happens in the short term. The most successful stock picks are usually great business that can grow and continue to succeed over many years. Our analysts have uncovered one such company in our new report, "The Motley Fool's Top Stock for 2012." It highlights a company that is revolutionizing commerce in Latin America. You can get instant access to the name of this company -- and it's absolutely free.

At the time this article was published Brendan Byrnes owns no shares of any company mentioned above. The Motley Fool owns shares of Best Buy. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy. 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.

Copyright © 1995 - 2012 The Motley Fool, LLC. All rights reserved. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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