Russian Rumblings Wreck Visa Inc. and Drop the Dow

Animal-loving investors can probably find parallels between the behavior of the Dow Jones Industrial Average this year and the behavior of a small, frightened stray kitten being brought into a new home. The Dow has been lured, cajoled, and even baited toward a new record high day after day, week after week. Now, after two days in a row of the exact same close, following a three-day rise that put it within half a percentage point of a new record, the Dow is once again playing keep-away, dropping quickly in early trading toward a full 1% loss today -- the index was sitting on a 0.7% loss at lunchtime.

This is certainly not the longest stretch of time the Dow -- which last set a record on the final trading day of 2013 -- has gone without hitting a fresh high during a supposed bull market. Still, many market watchers are undoubtedly getting a bit frustrated by the fact that Wall Street's most famous index has been holding back despite having no particularly good reason to do so.

Today's drop is being blamed on rising tensions in Ukraine, but some large American corporate bellwethers are also disappointing investors with weak earnings reports. E-commerce giant is suffering one of its worst days in years, as guidance toward a full-year operating loss has been met with a nearly 9% decline. This is by far the largest weight on the S&P 500   today, as the $140 billion Amazon has lost more than twice the market cap of $150 billion Facebook, which is the index's second-worst large-cap component this afternoon with a 4.3% loss.

However, Dow and S&P component Visa is competing with Facebook for second place in the biggest-large-cap-loser contest on the S&P. Visa's 3.5% drop is the Dow's worst, and it would have a greater impact on the S&P than Facebook's if its $130 billion market cap were a bit larger.

Source: Minneapolis CityPages.

Visa's woes are more closely tied to Ukraine tensions than perhaps any other major stock on American markets, as the payment processor warned investors that political blowback against Russia -- whose annexation of the formerly Ukrainian territory of Crimea is the source of all this tension in the first place -- could shave "several pennies" off of 2014's earnings. Visa reported earnings after yesterday's close; the remarks on Russia came during the company's earnings call, in which CEO Charlie Scharf noted that Visa has "100 million cards [in Russia] and it's not in anyone's best interest, inclusive of the Russians, to make those cards not available to their own citizens."

American and European politicians are considering economic sanctions against Russia, and such penalties would undoubtedly harm American and European financial companies with strong business in the country. Visa rival MasterCard is down 3.4% this afternoon in reaction to Visa's report, as the world's second-largest payments processor is also at risk of losing Russian business  if the West institutes economic sanctions.

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Alex Planes holds no financial position in any company mentioned here. Add him on Google+ or follow him on Twitter @TMFBiggles for more insight into markets, history, and technology.The Motley Fool recommends, Facebook, MasterCard, and Visa. The Motley Fool owns shares of, Facebook, MasterCard, and Visa. 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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