Cisco Anxiety Couldn't Stop Dow 14,000


The Dow Jones Industrial Average's flirtations with the 14,000 level continued today, with the benchmark finishing on the positive side of the line for the second time this year, setting a new closing five-year high in the process with its 47-point gain. Yet the gains weren't consistent across the market, with the Nasdaq Composite actually losing ground and the S&P 500 settling for a small percentage gain.

Contributing to the tech-heavy Nasdaq's woes was Cisco Systems , which fell almost 1.5% today. Cisco reports earnings tomorrow, and with Oracle having recently made a move into the networking space with its purchase of Acme Packet, investors will definitely want to know how CEO John Chambers expects to keep Cisco moving in the right direction in the face of heavier competition from massive rivals. Moreover, with the company having huge amounts of cash on its balance sheet, many wonder if Cisco will take steps to get some of that cash out to shareholders, either through increased dividend, share buybacks, or more creative means.

Elsewhere, Northern Oil & Gas fell almost 5% after the company gave an update on fourth-quarter production. Although the producer has seen substantial production gains in the past year from its exposure in the Bakken and Three Forks areas of the Williston Basin, a sequential drop from last quarter's production levels have investors nervous about its future. Small players like Northern are often apt to move in a highly volatile manner in response to important news items like production figures.

Finally, sticking with the energy theme, SandRidge Mississippian Trust I saw its share price fall by almost 6%, but most of that $1-per-share drop came from the company's $0.65 dividend distribution, with the stock going ex-dividend today. That means that those who bought shares today got a bargain but won't get their quarterly dividend payment later this month. The royalty trust has lost nearly half its share value over the past year, and despite an impressive dividend yield of more than 14% based on its most recent distribution, investors remain unconvinced that energy prices and production levels will stay high enough to support that yield going forward.

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