Investors Fret About Earnings, Pushing Stocks Lower

There was an uneasy feeling on Wall Street today as cold begins to creep in around the country and investors begin fretting about earnings season. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI) has slipped 0.13%, and the S&P 500 (INDEX: ^GSPC) is down 0.27% in late trading today.

Home Depot (NYS: HD) and Hewlett-Packard (NYS: HPQ) are leading the Dow lower after falling 1.8% and 1.6%, respectively. There isn't a plethora of news driving either stock, but investors seem to be concerned about global consumer spending today, despite recent data. Employment and housing numbers have improved in recent months, and it would appear that macro data is working to the benefit of both companies in the long term, providing an opportunity for long-term investors.

UnitedHealth Group (NYS: UNH) is the only Dow component moving notably higher today. This morning, the company announced it would acquire a majority stake in Amil Participacoes SA for $4.9 billion. The Brazilian health benefits and care provider has an insurance network of 3,300 hospitals and 44,000 doctors, and it also owns 22 hospitals. Only 25% of Brazil's residents are covered by private health care, so the growth potential is huge.

Gold and oil have also moved slightly lower today, so there doesn't seem to be any reprieve from the down market.

Earnings season begins tomorrow when Alcoa (NYS: AA) reports after the bell, and that's when the market should begin setting a direction for the next three months. Many analysts have predicted a weak earnings season, and Alcoa will tell us whether we'll get off on the right foot or we're in for a long season.

In the short term, the market may be uneasy, but major economic indicators are improving, and investors with a long-term horizon can profit from our economic recovery. Find out what three investments our analysts think will thrive as the economy recovers in our free report by clicking here.

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Fool contributor Travis Hoium does not have a position in any company mentioned. You can follow Travis on Twitter at @FlushDrawFool, check out his personal stock holdings or follow his CAPS picks at TMFFlushDraw.Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of The Home Depot and UnitedHealth Group. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a diagonal call position in UnitedHealth Group. 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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