Dow Sinks as AT&T Fights Back, Chevron Warns on Earnings

Thursday morning, the Dow Jones Industrials took a breather from the previous day's big gain, falling about 27 points as of 11 a.m. EDT as the broader market also declined modestly. Investors remain pleased with the state of the U.S. economy, especially after minutes from the Federal Reserve's last policy meeting suggested that interest rates would rise only gradually over the next few years. But with tensions rising once again in Ukraine, and with global economic conditions less favorable than those in the U.S., investors aren't willing to get too excited about the Dow Jones Industrials' prospects. The tug-of-war showed itself among the index's components today, as AT&T bounced back from recent declines even as Chevron fell after issuing a warning on its first-quarter results.

AT&T rose 1.4% as the wireless network giant indicated that it will expand the geographical reach of its ultra-high-speed Internet service. AT&T's gigabit U-verse service will now be available in key locations in North Carolina's Research Triangle region, showing the company's emphasis on high-technology areas with big demand for the fastest-speed connections available. The Research Triangle will be AT&T's second area with the service, after Austin, Texas. With AT&T vying with Silicon Valley to offer the highest-speed Internet to high-end customers, it's clear that the telecom stalwart and Dow Jones Industrials component will rely more on broadband, wireless, and other cutting-edge technologies to boost its growth, and investors like that direction.

Meanwhile, Chevron fell 1.5% after giving an interim update for its first quarter. Chevron said that profit would come in below its fourth-quarter level, citing lower oil and gas production volumes in weather-affected areas of North America, as well as Kazakhstan. Adverse currency moves and one-time asset writedown charges will also hit earnings, although taking away their impact, Chevron expects sequential earnings to be relatively flat. But with production drops of 2% internationally and more than 4% domestically in the first two months of 2014, Chevron is clearly struggling to maintain its upstream volume; downstream operations also fell due to maintenance at several refineries.

Looking forward, the Dow Jones Industrials will continue to get buffeted on all sides, especially as earnings season ramps up. Chevron and AT&T and their moves today show just how important it is to look at individual stocks and their specific prospects in assessing the health of the blue-chip index and the broader market.

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