Are the Dow's Laggards Worth Buying?


On Friday we saw Democrats and Republicans come together to discuss their differences on the upcoming fiscal cliff, and although they didn't have a solution, they at least agreed that one must be found. Additionally, both sides established areas in which they would compromise on. Investors liked what they heard, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI) closed 45 points higher on Friday. And from the looks of it, the index will close even higher than that today. As of 1 p.m. EST, the Dow is up 1.3% to 12,757.

But last Friday's news is not the only reason markets are moving higher today. This morning it was reported that sales of existing homes rose 2.1% in the month of October. Total housing inventory is also down 1.4%, and we currently have just 2.14 million existing homes for sale. At the current sales rate, that represents a 5.4-month supply, the lowest inventory since the 5.2-month supply we had in February of 2006.

Currently there is not a single Dow component trading in the red, but there are a number of stocks which are down for the year. Since a number of investors like to trade out of old holdings and into new ones during this time of year, let's look at the three biggest Dow losers year to date and decide whether or not they're priced to buy.

Dumpster diving
The biggest Dow laggard of 2012 is Hewlett-Packard (NYS: HPQ) . HP's stock price is down nearly 50% from where it started back on Jan. 1. It has been an extremely difficult year for PC makers as consumers move to smartphones and tablets. HP hasn't adapted to the shift and thus has fallen to the bottom of investors' buy lists. Just a few weeks ago, a study showed that brokers ranked Hewlett-Packard 29th out of 30 on their list of favorite Dow stock picks and placed it at No. 492 in the S&P 500. With PC sales declining, the company has a long, hard road ahead, and this is one instance where you should follow the pros by keeping HP off your buy list.

This year's second-worst-performing Dow stock is -- no surprise -- Intel (NAS: INTC) , whose shares are down almost 17% year to date. Similar to Hewlett-Packard, Intel has missed the shift from PCs to mobile. Intel, the king of PC chips, has watched others move in and take the lead in smartphones and tablets. Although Intel has a small presence in the mobile, it has lost its chip making dominance, and some investors believe the company is too far behind to catch up in the near future. On the upside, though, Intel still dominates in mainframe and data storage devices, which will help keep the company afloat while it works its way into the mobile market. Intel should be placed on hold at this time.

Lastly, McDonald's (NYS: MCD) is the Dow's third-worst stock of the year. Shares have slid 15% year to date. The company has been dealing with tougher comps this year and increased competition from not only other burger joints, but fast-food restaurants across the board. McDonald's remains No. 1 in the industry and currently holds that spot by a wide advantage -- something current and potential investors need to keep an eye on. If McDonald's begins rapidly losing market share, the stock will likely fall further, but if it's maintained or increased, the sky is the limit. At this time, I believe the stock is a great long-term buy-and-hold option for anyone's portfolio.

But before you buy, get a little more information on McDonald's and some of the opportunities and possible risks the company will be facing in the future. To read our premium research report on the company, click here now.

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Matt Thalman has no positions in the stocks mentioned above. The Motley Fool owns shares of Intel and McDonald's. Motley Fool newsletter services recommend Intel and McDonald's. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not 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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