Unemployment Claims Fall, but So Does the Dow

After the markets were hit with a number of both positive and negative economic data points today, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 16 points, or 0.12%, to 13,967. The other major indexes are also flat, with the S&P 500 and the NASDAQ both hovering within a point of breakeven.

The weekly first-time unemployment claims were released today, showing a drop of 27,000 from the prior reporting period. The seasonally adjusted 341,000 is the lowest reading in the past three weeks, and the four-week average now sits at 352,500. This good news was outweighed by negativity around the globe: GDP fell to an annualized rate of 0.4% in Japan, while the eurozone experienced a decline in GDP of 0.6% in the fourth quarter.

Who's down on the Dow?
The Dow telecom stocks are taking it on the chin today: Shares of AT&T and Verizon are down 0.9% and 0.7%, respectively. My Fool colleague Jessica Alling noted earlier today that AT&T and other DSL providers are embroiled in a patent-infringement suit brought on by Intellectual Ventures. This could be causing the stocks to fall, but I believe this is more of an industrywide decline related to the announcement that CenturyLink is cutting its dividend by 25%. The company will be reallocating capital from its dividend program to share repurchases and debt reduction. While CenturyLink is a local, land-based telecom service provider, investors expect high dividend yields from the entire industry, and whenever a company cuts its dividend, investors become nervous that others will follow suit.


Cisco Systems is currently the Dow's worst-performing stock of the day, with shares down 1.2%. The company announced quarterly earnings last night that, on most levels, looked strong. The company beat analysts' expectations on earnings per share and hit expected revenue dead-on. But the shares are likely falling because of gross margin and operating margin declined during the quarter. Get the full run-down on the earnings report by clicking here.

More Foolish insight
Are you at ease...or nervous? It's been a great five-year run for investors, with the Dow and S&P at or near all-time highs. Yet fears abound. When will the next downturn hit? Will political gridlock lead to portfolio-killing inflation? To learn how to protect your portfolio, click here for free guidance from the Motley Fool Pro Academy

The article Unemployment Claims Fall, but So Does the Dow originally appeared on Fool.com.

Fool contributor Matt Thalman has no position in any stocks mentioned. Follow Matt on Twitter @mthalman5513. The Motley Fool recommends Cisco Systems. 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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