P&G's Gains Slow the Dow's Plunge

Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over daily movements, we do like to keep an eye on market changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.

The markets have fallen into a sea of red today as stocks drop across nearly every sector. The Dow Jones Industrial Average has taken a pounding from the opening bell, and as of 2:15 p.m. EDT it has lost more than 120 points. Most stocks are down on the blue-chip index, but Procter & Gamble's doing its best to hold off the Dow's losses with a strong performance for investors. Let's catch up on what you need to know.

P&G's upside for the long term
Procter & Gamble got a boost today after Wells Fargo bumped the stock's rating up from "market perform" to outperform. The analyst cited the firm's cost-cutting moves in the raise, and P&G's stock has responded by jumping 1.4% to lead the Dow. It's a fair assessment: P&G hopes to save up to $10 billion by 2016 by slashing costs, which it desperately needs to do after sales turned sluggish and weighed on the consumer giant's growth prospects.

The company posted organic sales growth of 3% in its most recent fiscal year -- the same number it notched in 2012 -- although foreign-exchange fluctuations took that total down to 1%. Still, growth has become elusive among P&G's top businesses. Its health care business has performed well and will likely remain one of P&G's top growth-drivers, as the consumer health industry is set to continue its steady march higher for years to come both internationally and in the U.S.

For all of P&G's growth woes, however, this is still one of America's most powerful consumer giants. P&G offers up a 3.2% dividend yield with a manageable payout ratio of 59%. Assuming the U.S. economy continues its rebound from the recession, increasing consumer spending should help the company's sales in coming years. For the long-term investor, P&G's a strong, stable foundation with which to anchor a portfolio -- even if it won't light up the market on a day-to-day basis.

Unfortunately, Dow heavyweight IBM is canceling out P&G's gains (and then some) with losses of 1.6%. IBM had disputed Amazon.com's winning bid for a $600 million cloud-computing contract for the CIA after Amazon Web Services beat IBM and several other contenders. The appeal is over today, as a judge sided with Amazon in the dispute.

IBM has invested a lot of money into its cloud-computing business, so this is a setback for the firm as it tries to court government contracts and other sizable deals. Considering that IBM's revenue has taken a big hit this year, falling about 4% year over year in the first six months of 2013, this company could have used the big contract to lift the spirits of its shareholders. IBM's stock has fallen more than 6.6% over the past three months, and Big Blue will need to shake things up in order to dig out of its slump.

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The article P&G's Gains Slow the Dow's Plunge originally appeared on Fool.com.

Fool contributor Dan Carroll has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Amazon.com and Procter & Gamble. The Motley Fool owns shares of Amazon.com and International Business Machines. 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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