Are These Dow Laggards Signaling the Bull Market's End?

After a couple days of uncertainty, the Dow Jones Industrials roared upward today, jumping almost 124 points in marking yet another new all-time record high. Positive comments from an influential hedge fund manager helped rally Wall Street traders, and a lack of inflationary pressure from the import market in light of the soaring U.S. dollar gave investors reassurances that the Federal Reserve will be able to keep its monetary policy accommodative for its promised extended period.

But a few Dow stocks didn't join in the celebration. The biggest decliner was UnitedHealth , which dropped more than 1% on news from the Congressional Budget Office that Obamacare might bring in a smaller number of uninsured Americans onto insurance company rolls through subsidies or expansions of Medicaid expansions than previously expected. With states no longer having to participate in Medicaid expansion, the estimate has fallen by more than a quarter since early CBO estimates two years ago, and that's bad news for insurers that have hoped that more customers would offset higher costs under Obamacare's other provisions.

Intel also lagged behind despite a good day for technology stocks overall. The chip maker fell 1% despite its recent efforts to bolster its presence in the tablet and smartphone space. As Fool contributor Steve Heller told analyst Rex Moore yesterday, what bullish investors aren't fully realizing about Intel is that because mobile margins are narrower than PC margins have historically been, it's not good enough for Intel to match its PC sales in the mobile arena. Rather, it has to sell many more chips in order to keep up, and that's a tall order in a highly competitive market.

Finally, Caterpillar rounded out the list of declining Dow stocks, falling 0.6%. The dollar's persistent strength spells trouble for the company's international sales, as the currency's strength make Caterpillar's exports more costly in local currency terms. With competitors from Japan and elsewhere gaining a competitive advantage, Caterpillar will have to work that much harder in an already-challenging environment of slowing economic growth and weak commodity prices.

By themselves, these stocks won't cause an end to the bull market. But given their past leadership, the fact that they aren't joining in the bull run could become a problem if they don't turn around and start participating in the near future.

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Fool contributor Dan Caplinger has no position in any stocks mentioned. You can follow him on Twitter @DanCaplinger. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Intel. It also recommends UnitedHealth Group. 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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