The Dow Stalls Following Painful Two-Day Sell-Off


The markets needed a breather after this week's chaotic nosedive, and they got a welcome respite today. The Dow Jones Industrial Average hasn't done much today, hovering near breakeven this afternoon, but at least investors aren't getting hammered like they were earlier in the week. Blue-chip stocks are mixed evenly between risers and losers today, with only a few stocks moving significantly. It's unlikely that Wall Street has gotten over its irrational fear of the end of quantitative easing that quickly, however, so long-term investors should hold tight, as more volatility is likely to come. Let's get caught up on the top stories of the day.

P&G leads the way; B of A fades
Procter & Gamble
is cruising full sail in today's calm market, leading the cadre of Dow risers higher. The consumer goods company's shares have jumped 1.6% as P&G continues to regroup under newly returned CEO A. G. Lafley. P&G has made the most of its brands lately, signing designer fragrance deals with the likes of Alexander McQueen and Stella McCartney. The company is also expanding geographically, looking to challenge rivals in emerging markets such as India. The firm recently invested heavily in its Indian unit, and while the business is small, Lafley also put much of his energy into growing the business during his previous tenure with P&G.

Coca-Cola's also on the rise today with shares up 1.5%. However, the company faces pressure from regulators concerned about public health in developed nations. New York City's Michael Bloomberg already brought the health concerns surrounding soft drinks into the limelight with the city's controversial soda tax proposal earlier this year -- a move that was ultimately struck down by a judge. However, leading public-health bodies in the U.K. have argued for a tax on soft drinks recently to combat obesity and other medical issues.

Coca-Cola has argued against such measures extensively, as such a tax could hurt the company's sales growth in affected areas. So far, it's all speculative, but with obesity on the rise, don't expect this problem to go away quickly.

One of the biggest losers of the day -- and the biggest loser of the week -- is Bank of America . The financial institution's shares have lost 1.2% today, bringing its losses over the past five days to more than 3%. Former employees of the company have claimed in court that they were told to mislead customers in danger of foreclosure about loan modifications, pushing them further into foreclosure. B of A denies the allegations and claims no wrongdoing, but after the entire Countrywide Financial mess, the very allegations of further misdeeds are another black mark on the bank's reputation -- a serious blow as it tries to re-establish its dominance in the mortgage market as housing rebounds.

Will B of A be the subject of still more lawsuits? It's certainly possible, and if so, then the publicity hits will keep coming unless B of A can prove it did nothing wrong. Right now, it's not looking promising for the firm.

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Fool contributor Dan Carroll has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Bank of America, Coca-Cola, and Procter & Gamble. The Motley Fool owns shares of Bank of America. 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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