Why Big Oil's Taking Down the Dow

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The Dow Jones Industrial Average has managed to bounce back to breakeven today after starting the day deep in the red. As of 2:15 p.m. EDT the blue-chip index is down a mere five points. The index has climbed almost all the way back from the morning's losses, however, and as of 2:15 p.m. EDT it's hanging just below the flat mark. Big Oil's two Dow companies, Chevron and ExxonMobil , reported earnings today, and neither one could post strong enough numbers to satisfy Wall Street -- or keep their stocks out of the red. Let's check out their earnings and the other big stories around the Dow you need to know.

Jobs growth slows, Big Oil falls
The July jobs report kicked things off on a sour note this morning, as new jobs picked up by only 162,000 for the month. That was far below many economists' predictions, even as unemployment dropped further to 7.4% in July. The labor force and labor participation rate both declined for the month, allowing the unemployment rate to fall despite the smaller-than-expected number of new jobs. Still, there were good signs for the economy in the month: Consumer spending moved higher by 0.5%, according to the Department of Commerce.

Those numbers weren't much help to Big Oil investors. Among the Dow's oil majors, Chevron has taken the brunt of the losses today, with shares falling 1.7% to lead the index lower. Cheaper oil prices contributed to the drop in the company's earnings, which declined by 26% year over year and missed analyst expectations. Chevron's revenue also dropped significantly, falling by more than 8% for the quarter.

Chevron's downstream segment really took a beating this quarter: The division's net profit plunged by 59% year over year. Despite a rise in natural-gas prices, it's oil that drives Chevron's business -- and the increase in U.S. shale oil production has cut oil prices from their recent highs. It has also cut down on Chevron's production, which is around 70,000 barrels per day below the company's production target of 2.65 million bpd for this year.

Exxon wasn't spared the pain of its smaller rival: The firm's net earnings plummeted by 57% year over year. Part of that loss owed to favorable tax breaks and other items that bolstered earnings a year ago, but smaller margins and cheaper oil are hitting Exxon's business as well. Revenue plunged 16% -- far more than at Chevron.

Although Exxon's earnings fell short of analysts' expectations, CEO Rex Tillerson expressed optimism today, calling the results representative of "strong operational performance." As with Chevron, Exxon's production is on the downswing. The metric fell for the eighth straight month, this time at a 1.9% year-over-year clip.

On the other side of the Dow, chemical giant DuPont is up 1.8% due to continued optimism from earlier in the week when the company announced it had completed its long and drawn-out acquisition of South African seed firm Pannar. South Africa had resisted DuPont's takeover attempt, but the three-year journey has finally come to an end -- much to DuPont investors' delight. The company has transitioned more toward higher-growth agricultural sales recently, and Pannar should only help DuPont's attempts to rise up the sector's ranks.

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The article Why Big Oil's Taking Down the Dow originally appeared on Fool.com.

Fool contributor Dan Carroll has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Chevron. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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