This wasn't the start to earnings season investors had wanted. With the first of the Dow Jones Industrial Average members set to report fourth-quarter results tomorrow, the Dow has plunged 73 points, or 0.54%, ahead of the news. Most stocks are in the red the day before we begin to see just how much the fiscal-cliff saga hurt earnings. And even with S&P 500 companies expected to post average earnings growth of nearly 3%, investors are retreating today in fear of bad news.

Falling further
Today's leading laggard by a wide margin is Disney . The entertainment giant has seen shares fall more than 2.6% today after it was reported that the company is looking for ways to curb costs, including layoffs. Disney seemingly had no problem offering $4 billion for Lucasfilm late last year, particularly when the blue chip announced record earnings last quarter and a dividend hike. Frankly, given Disney's solid position in its industry, the dip could signal a good time to buy before the company surges yet again. The stock is up more than 30% over the last 52 weeks.

Not so fortunate is Boeing . Shares of the aerospace manufacturer have taken a 2.1% hit today after one of its 787 Dreamliner aircraft caught on fire in Boston. Although nobody was hurt in the event, this was not the sort of public-relations nightmare Boeing needed for its newest and brightest star airliner.


Alcoa's not having a day to write home about, either. The aluminum manufacturer is first on tap for the Dow's earnings season, and with revenue expected to decline, the company's stock has fallen about 1% so far today.

Bucking the trend of falling stocks today, McDonald's leads all Dow gainers higher, the shares having picked up about 0.9%. There's little news of note about the fast-food giant, but with the stock down more than 10% over the last 52 weeks, this could be a stock to be had for cheap.

Bizarrely, Hewlett-Packard continues to draw in investors hoping for a steal -- but this isn't so reliable a stock as McDonald's. Although the tech giant's shares are up 0.5% today, the company still has to deal with the fallout of its Autonomy writedown and Department of Justice investigation, as it has announced that it may get rid of underperforming divisions. Buyer beware -- particularly after HP's horrific 2012.

Disney's down today, but this reliable entertainment giant has been churning out returns for years. From its vast catalog of characters to its monster collection of media networks, much of Disney's allure for investors lies in its diversity, and The Motley Fool's new premium research report lays out the case for investing in Disney today. This report includes the key items investors must watch, as well as the opportunities and threats the company faces going forward. We're also providing a full year of regular analyst updates as news develops, so don't miss out -- simply click here now to claim your copy today.

The article The Dow Falls on the Day Before Earnings Kickoff originally appeared on Fool.com.

Dan Carroll has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends McDonald's Corp and Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of McDonald's Corp and Walt Disney. 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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