Dow Looks Agnostic Ahead of Election


Trading was light today on Wall Street as investors await the outcome of tomorrow's election, but the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI) managed a modest gain of 19 points, or 0.15%, nonetheless. To take a market's view of the election, Intrade, an options market based on traders' bets on the election, says Barack Obama has a 68.3% chance of winning the presidency. And while plenty of ink has been spilled on the effects the outcome of the election will have on the stock market, our own Morgan Housel says that, in fact, there's very little correlation between the two.

Turning back to the day's news, only one economic report was released today, the ISM Services Report, which showed slower growth than expected in the service sector.

Hewlett-Packard (NYS: HPQ) led Dow stocks today, gaining 1.8%. The beaten-down PC-maker committed more than $500,000 to become a platinum member of the Linux Foundation, which oversees a free-open source operating system. Some interpret the move as an attempt to break away from Microsoft (NAS: MSFT) , though that seems unlikely in the near term, as HP is highly dependent on business accounts that use Windows. Linux, however, could be an inroad into making cheaper PC's for markets in the developing world.

Elsewhere, the health-insurance sector as a whole was down, as the market could be nervous that a Romney presidency would lead to an undoing of the Affordable Care Act. UnitedHealth Group (NYS: UNH) fell 1.4%, as peer Humana also reported earnings below estimates.

Outside the Dow, Apple (NAS: AAPL) put at least a temporary stop to its long slide, as shares gained 1.4% after it said it sold 3 million iPads over the weekend thanks to the debut of the iPad Mini, a newly released fourth generation of its regularly sized iPad. By comparison, Apple sold just 16 million tablets in all of its last quarter.

Finally, Netflix (NAS: NFLX) caused a stir by announcing it will deploy a "poison pill" to prevent a potential takeover from corporate raider Carl Icahn, who recently announced owning a 10% stake in the company. The home entertainer rose 1.7% during the session on the plan, which issues one right per common share to allow shareholders to buy 1/1000th of a new preferred share at an exercise price of $350. In other words, the poison pill is a way of diluting voting rights to make it more difficult for raiders like Icahn to take over the company. Icahn spoke out against the move, calling it "poor corporate governance."

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Jeremy Bowman owns shares of Apple. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Microsoft, Netflix, and UnitedHealth Group. Motley Fool newsletter services recommend Apple, Microsoft, Netflix, and UnitedHealth Group. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't 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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