Ford Plunges, Apple Rises, and Dow Holds Steady


Despite an otherwise busy day on the earnings front, in which the nation's second-largest automaker disappointed analysts, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has remained steady. With an hour left in afternoon trading, the blue-chip index is up by 64 points, or 0.46%.

Pfizer impresses, Ford depresses, and Apple finally climbs again
Shares of Pfizer are leading the Dow today, up 3.3% after the pharmaceutical giant reported fourth-quarter earnings this morning. While Pfizer's earnings per share fell on a year-over-year basis to $0.47 after its blockbuster drug Lipitor lost patent protection, they nevertheless came in above analyst expectations of $0.44 per share. As my colleague Dan Dzombak noted:

Pfizer and its investors have known for years that Lipitor was coming off patent, and the company has been taking steps to build its pipeline and replace the expiring blockbuster drug. The company has also made efforts to return value to shareholders by increasing its quarterly dividend, buying back large amounts of shares ($3.4 billion in Q4 and $8.2 billion for 2012) and spinning off its animal health division.

Following closely on Pfizer's heels are shares of Procter & Gamble , which are up by nearly 2%. P&G continues to bask in the afterglow of its better-than-expected second-quarter earnings, released at the end of last week. For the three months ended Dec. 31, the consumer products giant earned $1.22 per share compared to the consensus estimate of $1.11.

As my colleague Demitrios Kalogeropoulos has discussed, there were three surprises contributing to P&G's performance. First, costs were down, fueling an 80-basis-point increase in the company's all-important gross margin. Second, organic sales grew by 3% over the year-ago period. And third, P&G's management increased its profit outlook for the remainder of 2013 and, as Demitrios puts it, "tossed another $1 billion into its share repurchase bucket."

Also on the earnings front, Ford reported mixed results today, sending its shares plunging by 5.2%. On the one hand, strong sales from its North American operations, where pre-tax earnings more than doubled, pushed the nation's second-biggest automaker to a 54% increase in adjusted fourth-quarter profit. On the other hand, the company continues to be weighed down by its operations in Europe, where the demand for new vehicles is at the lowest level in more than a decade, according to The New York Times. On a pre-tax basis, Ford lost $732 million in Europe, compared with a $190 million loss in the year-ago period.

Finally, in non-earnings news, shares of Apple are up today after the technology giant announced that a "new" iPad will be hitting the market next Tuesday. I put "new" in quotations because the device is more of an incremental improvement over previous versions.

The newest device purportedly offers a 9.7-inch retina display with 128 gigabytes of storage -- double its previous capacity -- and will retail at $799 for its Wi-Fi model and $929 for its cellular model. As Matthew Lynley of The Wall Street Journalput it, "This is a pretty incremental upgrade and appears to be geared toward enterprises and other users that require large amounts of data."

To say that Apple has struggled of late would be an understatement. Since peaking above $700 in the middle of September, shares in the iPhone maker have fallen a staggering 35%. They plunged most recently following its fiscal-first-quarter earnings release, in which its iPhone sales and gross-margin figures raised alarm among analysts.

However, at these levels (the stock is currently trading around $460 per share), I'd tend to agree with my colleague Evan Niu, who recently opined: "When the terror subsides, will you still be holding (or buying) shares? Let's hope so."

Is it time to buy Apple?
There's no doubt that Apple is at the center of technology's largest revolution ever and that longtime shareholders have been handsomely rewarded. However, there is a debate raging as to whether Apple remains a buy. The Motley Fool's senior technology analyst and managing bureau chief, Eric Bleeker, is prepared to fill you in on reasons both to buy and to sell Apple, as well as what opportunities remain for the company (and your portfolio) going forward. To get instant access to his latest thoughts on Apple, simply click here now.

The article Ford Plunges, Apple Rises, and Dow Holds Steady originally appeared on

John Maxfield owns shares of Apple. The Motley Fool recommends Apple, Ford, and Procter & Gamble. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple and Ford. 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.

Copyright © 1995 - 2013 The Motley Fool, LLC. All rights reserved. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.