These 3 Decliners Couldn't Hold Back the Dow

The Dow Jones Industrials returned to its glory days today, recovering from a morning decline that, at one point approached a 90-point drop, to finish the day higher by 13 points. That behavior was commonplace during the early part of 2013, as investors seemed to jump even on intraday dips to buy into the stock market rally. But for the market to return to its winning ways by overcoming adversity speaks well of the positive impact of earnings season on the stock market.

Yet, several Dow stocks weren't able to join in on the rebound. Microsoft was the biggest decliner in the Dow today, falling 1.8%. The success of some of its competitors in tackling the mobile space puts the tech giant's ongoing struggles to establish itself in the mobile-device arena in a much less favorable perspective, as investors appear to be losing patience with the company, even after a massive share-price advance so far this year. Microsoft has the financial resources to implement whatever growth initiatives it chooses, but the choices themselves need to be more successful if the company wants to recover from what could easily become a new malaise.

Home Depot was a somewhat surprising loser today, with its 1.6% decline coming even as the U.S. economy posted some reasonably strong economic data in durable-goods orders. Nevertheless, the high-flying stock has traded at a high earnings multiple for a long time, leaving it vulnerable to even the hint of any slowdown in the red-hot housing market. Two homebuilders reported unexpectedly low order and delivery activity, and if higher interest rates continue to produce less home-buying activity, it could eventually weigh on Home Depot's growth prospects, and potentially lead to a larger correction from the stock's high levels.

Finally, Caterpillar continued its poor performance, falling another 1.5% and coming closer to flirting with a new multi-year low. A minor bounce in precious metals prices has helped to reverse a small part of gold's big decline from earlier this year, bringing some hope that mining activity might rise and increase demand for Caterpillar's mining equipment. Yet, even amid signs of relative strength in the U.S., the economies of the rest of the world don't look nearly as perky, and that should keep a lid over Caterpillar's prospects until the trend reverses itself.

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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 Home Depot. The Motley Fool owns shares of Microsoft. 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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