Cisco, UnitedHealth Lead the Dow's Struggling Stocks Down

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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.

Stocks have taken a pounding today, keeping up this week's fall from the 16,000-point mark for the Dow Jones Industrial Average . The Dow's had trouble making any headway today, losing 60 points as of 2:30 p.m. EST. Nearly the entire index is in the red, but few stocks among the market's biggest names are slogging through the day's woes like Cisco , with the tech giant's stock falling 2%. UnitedHealth's having a tough day as well, with shares dropping 1.3%. Let's catch up on what you need to know.

Cisco sees a gloomier future
Cisco started off today's fall by slashing its three-to-five-year earnings-per-share growth projection to between 5% and 7% from an earlier forecast of between 7% and 9%. Additionally, Cisco sliced its revenue forecast for that time to between 3% and 6% growth from an earlier range of between 5% and 7% growth.

The company noted that it's had trouble in emerging markets lately while also seeing its network equipment business -- Cisco's primary segment -- stalling out in growth. Indeed, Cisco's product revenue, which made up more than 77% of total sales as of the most recent quarter, saw merely 1.1% growth for the quarter, only about 25% of what the company's service revenue growth achieved.

However, there are a few bright spots for Cisco. CEO John Chambers noted that the U.S. economy is beginning to bounce back fully from the devastating blows of the recession, and that's a great point for Cisco. The company made more than 60% of its total revenue from the Americas in its most recent quarter, and sales growth jumped 4.2% during that time in its highest-growing region, enough to outpace the 8.7% year-over-year sales drop seen in Cisco's Asia-Pacific region. Despite Cisco's lagging growth, the stock still has plenty of value as a strong dividend pick, with a 3.2% dividend yield at just a 36% dividend payout ratio.

UnitedHealth's having its own bad day after the Department of Health and Human Services released data regarding the first two months of Obamacare's launch. Roughly 365,000 Americans had selected new health care plans from the state-run or federally managed insurance exchanges nationwide. While that number's far below original HHS estimates, the exchanges did show much improved growth in November after a sluggish start in the first month of the new law's rollout.

For UnitedHealth and its rivals it's a mixed bag. The company likely will face challenges from rising costs unless enrollee numbers improve dramatically during the new law's launch window through the end of March. However, UnitedHealth's looking smart before investors for dipping its toes into only a small handful of individual insurance exchanges nationwide, rather than diving into Obamacare's pool headfirst. It's still a wait-and-see situation for insurance investors as the new law progresses, but right now, Obamacare's tepid launch shows that playing health-care reform is the right move for insurers.

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Fool contributor Dan Carroll has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Cisco Systems and UnitedHealth Group. 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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