UnitedHealth Outshines a Downbeat Dow

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Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over daily movements, we do like to keep an eye on market changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.

The markets are fresh off another all-time record high set last Friday, but the Dow Jones Industrial Average is kicking off the new week with a whimper. The blue-chip index has sunk more than 50 points as of 2:20 p.m. EDT. Most of its 30 component stocks are down the day, but only a few stocks are going anywhere fast. Let's catch up on the top stories you need to know around the Dow.

UnitedHealth readies for ObamaCare
UnitedHealth Group
is supporting an otherwise lackluster Dow today. America's largest publicly traded health insurer's stock has gained 1.3% so far. There's little news pertaining to the company, but a big test awaits it and its shareholders in just a few months. With ObamaCare's state exchanges rolling out in October, it'll be interesting to see how UnitedHealth and its peers in the insurance industry handle health care reform.

UnitedHealth has shown mixed signals so far about the future of health care. The company has engaged in few state exchange systems so far, notably opting out of California's individual exchange with several other major insurance-providers a few months back due to cost concerns. Fortunately for investors, UnitedHealth's size and breath -- the company not only crosses virtually every U.S. demographic, but it also reached overseas with its acquisition-boosted Brazilian expansion last year -- make it a top pick in the industry.

Unfortunately, United Technologies investors aren't having such a good day. Shares of the industrial conglomerate have fallen about 1% on the day, placing the stock among the Dow's worst laggards so far. UTC just released a strong earnings report and raised its full-year outlook, but while the company's near future looks sunny, investors still need to watch how sequestration's budget cuts will affect UTC in the coming years.

Sequestration will hit the defense sector hard over the next decade, and UTC is particularly exposed with its Sikorsky helicopter and defense business and its Pratt & Whitney aerospace segment. Fortunately for investors, the growth of the civilian aviation sector has boosted the company's aerospace business in recent quarters, and that continued trend should provide a buffer against any downturn in defense spending.

Disney is also down on the day, with shares falling 0.9%, but like UTC, this company has plenty to look forward to. Don't let one day of drops fool you: Disney boasts one of the strongest portfolios of brands on the Dow with the likes of Marvel, Star Wars, and sports network ESPN under its umbrella. The company has pushed more heavily into television shows recently, moving beyond ESPN into its Marvel-themed Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. program, riding the success of its $1.5 billion-grossing film The Avengers. Considering that network ABC is rumored to be exploring the possibility of a Star Wars-themed show before the next installment of the movie franchise is released in 2015, Disney's appears to be cultivating its brands well on the small screen.

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The article UnitedHealth Outshines a Downbeat Dow originally appeared on Fool.com.

Fool contributor Dan Carroll has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends UnitedHealth Group and Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of Walt Disney. 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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