Can the Dow Hold 17,000 Even as UnitedHealth Group, Goldman Sachs Sink?

After hitting new records on three straight days last week, the Dow Jones Industrials took a post-holiday breather Monday morning, losing 69 points as of 11 a.m. EDT to dip just below 17,000. Without much in the way of economic news, and with earnings season not officially starting until tomorrow, investors appeared to stay in a holding pattern as they wait for the latest Federal Open Market Committee meeting minutes later this week. Goldman Sachs was among the biggest decliners in the Dow after making a dour prediction on the interest rate front, but UnitedHealth Group suffered an even larger drop this morning.

Goldman Sachs fell 1.4% as the investment banking giant said it now expects the Federal Reserve to start raising short-term interest rates soon after midyear 2015, which is far earlier than its previous projection of early 2016. Goldman pointed to improving conditions in employment and rising inflationary pressures as forcing the Fed's hand sooner rather than later. Goldman also got some potentially bad news from rating agency Fitch, which said a new Goldman financial product intended to earn a AAA rating would likely not qualify for the top bond rating. Fitch specifically noted lower than typical collateralization figures for the Goldman Fixed Income Global Structured Covered Obligation as holding it back from the coveted rating, which Goldman hopes to achieve in order to boost the quantity of AAA debt available in a tight market for high-quality fixed-income securities. The move might prove a setback to Goldman's efforts to assert its dominance in the bond market.

Source: UnitedHealth Group.

UnitedHealth dropped 1.6%, falling along with other health-insurance companies. The status of the Affordable Care Act continues to have a huge impact on UnitedHealth and its peers, as the now-operational health-insurance exchanges are starting to see hard numbers on enrollment and loss experience. Recently, insurers have gone to state regulatory bodies in many states across the nation to ask for rate increases, citing less than favorable demographic mixes between healthier and less healthy individual policyholders. With the government seeking to control health-care costs by limiting reimbursements to health insurers and care providers, UnitedHealth could be caught in a profit squeeze if it can't pass through higher costs to policyholders by raising premiums.

Watch the Dow today to see if it holds the 17,000 level. With so much hype over the milestone last week, losing it so soon could be a sign of a lack of confidence among investors going into the second half of 2014.

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Dan Caplinger has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Goldman Sachs and UnitedHealth Group. 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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