Why the Dow's Sinking Today

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI) fell by as much as 0.73% this morning while the Nasdaq (INDEX: ^IXIC) outpaced other indexes; it's currently up 0.28%. The reason for the spread between the Dow and the Nasdaq is simple and can be summed up in a word: Apple. While Apple isn't included in the Dow Jones, it makes up about 14% of the Nasdaq 100. Back out the effect of Apple's earnings, and the Nasdaq would pretty much be exactly where the Dow is. It takes some pretty impressive earnings to move an entire index like that.

Why earnings are dragging down the Dow
But therein lies the problem for the market today: Apple appears to be an outlier. Corporate earnings have been keeping the stock market afloat, but have been a mixed bag this earnings season. That's a scary proposition to investors: Last quarter, corporate earnings saw their slowest earnings growth in nearly two years. The S&P 500 (INDEX: ^GSPC) grew earnings by only 6%. That figure hasn't improved this earnings season, as heading into the week the current quarter was showing earnings growth of 5.7%, a slight dip from the previous quarter.

Who disappointed today
So, with every ho-hum earnings report, investors get a bit more scared that the corporate earnings engine driving the market is running out of steam. In the blue chip world of Dow components, Boeing (NYS: BA) reported today and promptly fell almost 3%. The company beat expectations, but like Dow peer Verizon, which swung to a loss on pension expenses yesterday, it warned that it would take a pension hit this year. Outside the Dow, LCD-display king Corning (NYS: GLW) is among the day's biggest losers on -- you guessed it! -- weak earnings and guidance. While smart TVs might be getting a bunch of press as the savior of television, the TVs on sale today are lackluster, and Corning's results show that.

Finding winners in an uncertain market
Still, for all the hand-wringing over earnings, there are plenty of great deals and companies seeing huge sales growth in fast-growing markets. For example, blue chip Caterpillar is reporting tomorrow morning and is expected to see its earnings surge 17% from last year. While America is slowing, the company has found plenty of growth opportunities abroad. The secret is finding companies with hidden potential in these markets that's unrecognized by the broader market.

We've uncovered one such stock with so much promise we've dubbed it "The Motley Fool's Top Stock for 2012" and created a special free report for investors to uncover this soon-to-be rock star. The report highlights a company that is revolutionizing commerce in Latin America, and you can get instant access to the name of this company. Thousands have already requested the report, which is free today, but it won't be here forever, so click here to access it now.

At the time thisarticle was published Eric Bleeker owns shares of no companies listed above. The Motley Fool owns shares of Corning and Apple.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended buying shares of Apple and Corning.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended creating a bull call spread position in Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy.

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