Why the Dow Can't Make Up Its Mind

Investors seemed to be holding their breath in anticipation of a big announcement from the European Central Bank or the Federal Reserve, as markets are showing little movement today. On Monday, stocks held gains attained during the best two-day stretch of the year last Thursday and Friday, buoyed largely on the expectation of further domestic stimulus and European action. The Federal Reserve's two-day policy meeting will conclude today, which investors hope will lead to the announcement of further quantitative easing. On the European front, ECB President Mario Draghi's statement last week that the bank is prepared to "do whatever it takes" to save the euro indicates that aid is imminent for debt-stricken Spain and Italy. At 12:15 p.m. EDT, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI) had lost 0.25%, while the S&P 500 (INDEX: ^GSPC) had fallen 0.26%.

A slew of economic data also failed to push markets one way or the other. In a morning report, the Bureau of Economic Analysis announced that personal income increased by 0.5%, surpassing expectations, while consumer spending for the month of June fell for the first time in almost a year. One promising sign is that consumer confidence rose in July for the first time in five months. The Conference Board's index of consumer confidence climbed to 65.9 from 62.7 in June, while analysts had projected a decline to 61.5. A pickup in the housing sector and optimism in job markets seemed to fuel the increase.

Turning to individual stocks, Pfizer (NYS: PFE) led the Dow today after reporting better-than-expected revenue and earnings this morning. The pharmaceutical giant crushed EPS expectations of $0.54 by earning $0.62 a share last quarter. The rise came despite losing revenue to generic competition for Pfizer's popular cholesterol drug Lipitor. The earnings beat sent shares surging 2.9%.

Home Depot (NYS: HD) lagged the blue chip index, dropping 1.7% on no company-specific news. Home Depot, the world's largest home improvement retailer, is one of three Dow stocks -- along with Disney and Wal-Mart -- that have had the largest impact on the price-weighted index. This is largely due to Home Depot's consistent growth, as shares have gained more than 50% over the past year.

Moving off the Dow, Apple (NAS: AAPL) continued its energetic recovery following last week's earnings miss, adding over 2% so far today. A report from research firm Sanford Bernstein indicated that the tech giant is considering undergoing a stock split, which would enable the company to be added to the Dow. Also, chip maker Cirrus Logic, whose audio chips have appeared in previous iPhones, dramatically boosted revenue expectations for the upcoming quarter, hinting at the likely release of the iPhone 5 sometime around September. Cirrus shares have soared over 20% today.

As other investors anxiously await Fed or ECB announcements, be sure to focus on the long-term and leave the day-to-day speculation to the traders. To help you, The Motley Fool has compiled a special report: "The Three Dow Stocks Every Dividend Investor Needs." It is yours for free, so be sure to claim your copy today.

The article Why the Dow Can't Make Up Its Mind originally appeared on Fool.com.

Foolish intern Charlie Kannel owns no shares of the companies mentioned above. The Motley Fool owns shares of Cirrus Logic, Walt Disney, and Apple. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Walt Disney, Home Depot, Pfizer, and Apple. Motley Fool newsletter services have also recommended creating a bull call spread position in Apple and a bull call spread position in Wal-Mart Stores. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

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