The Dow Tanks, Then Rallies Back: What Drove the Markets Today


U.S. stock indexes dodged a bullet to an extent today. Let's just say the markets have a savior, and that savior's name is the U.S. Federal Reserve. On a day where markets sat well under their opening prices, commentary emerging from the Fed's meeting at the last month's end helped to reverse Mr. Market's mood. At midday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI) had shed 80 points. However, the U.S. markets turned course after the Fed news broke. At day's end, the Dow had recovered to finish down only 0.2%.

Apparently in its most recent session, many members of the Fed's policy-setting committee showed a willingness to provide extra monetary stimulus should the American economy remain mired coming into the end of the year. Not exactly the kind of earth-shattering news that we like to see move markets, but this could provide a nice tailwind for investors, or at least help to limit downside risk as we approach 2013. However, we like to have more than the Fed driving our stock's gains, so let's look at a few of the day's most prominent storyline's affecting individual equities.

Around the markets
Today's news cycle brought major swings in several prominently featured stocks in Fooldom, most notably shares of PC powerhouse Dell (NAS: DELL) . Yesterday, the company's earnings missed estimates. More alarming yet, Dell also lowered its full-year guidance. Investors fled from the stock, driving it down more than 5%. Similarly, Hewlett-Packard (NYS: HPQ) also fell 3.6% today, only to drop another 3.9% as of writing after it issued equally weak earnings. Both companies sit at the dying end of the personal computing market.

Similarly, Chinese search juggernaut Baidu (NAS: BIDU) dropped as much as 5%, only to recover late in the day, on news that competitor Qihoo plans to launch its own search service. And while Baidu is beautifully competitively entrenched, owning more than 80% of the market share in Chinese search, the market is still in its infancy. Even with one more competitor, sitting near 30 times earnings, Baidu's stock certainly appears undervalued relative to its growth potential. Also dropping were shares of telecom player Clearwire (NAS: CLWR) . An analyst downgraded the stock, viewing it as now overpriced after its massive 60% gain over the past month.

At the end of the day, single-day market swings matter very little. While it's crucial to stay up to date on the goings-on with your holdings, concentrating on finding and buying stocks with the makings of long-term winners more often than not generates a more favorable outcome. The Fool recently identified three Dow stocks that have all the makings of longtime winners, and you can access the research note for free. Investors interested in specific companies mentioned in this piece should check out our new premium report on Baidu.

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Andrew Tonnerowns shares of Baidu. You can find Andrew and all his Foolish writing onTwitterat@Andrew Tonner. The Motley Fool owns shares of Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended buying shares of We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy.

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