Dow Fights for Gains Following Disappointing Economic Releases

This morning's all-important July jobs report certainly wasn't what investors were expecting it to be, as only 162,000 new jobs were added to the U.S. economy during the month. That's the worst number we've seen in four months and well below the 185,000 that economists were expecting. Additionally, May and June were revised lower by a total of 26,000 jobs, and the labor force participation rate fell from 63.5% to 63.4%. Finally, while the unemployment rate did decline to 7.4%, that owes partly to a decline in the labor participation rate. 

As this news hit investors this morning, the markets suffered more substantial losses, but they have since made their way back near breakeven. After being down more than 70 points, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is off by only 12 points, or 0.08%, as of 12:50 p.m. EDT. The S&P 500 is down less than a point, while the Nasdaq is now up about 0.1%. But despite coming off its lows, 17 of the Dow's 30 components are still in the red today. Let's take a moment to see why a few of them are lower.

Shares of Chevron are down 2.4% today after the company reported second-quarter earnings this morning that, similar to ExxonMobil's results yesterday, didn't impress. Chevron reported revenue of $57.37 billion, which was down 8.4% from the second quarter last year and was much better than the 16.4% revenue decline Exxon experienced this year when compared to 2012. Chevron's earnings came in at $2.77 per share, down 24% from $3.66 a year ago -- a discouraging result but still much better than Exxon's 54% profit decline. Chevron's operating margins fell from 19.6% to 15% during the quarter, but one of the biggest problems was that the company's downstream segment -- refining, marketing, and chemical operations -- experienced a profit decline of 59% as higher costs and lower margins hurt those units. Shares of ExxonMobil are down 1.3% today after falling just more than 1% yesterday.


Similar to Exxon and Chevron, IBM is a Dow component that has a lot of influence on which way the index moves, as it's the heaviest-weighted component. As it slides lower by 0.8% today, it's holding the blue-chip index lower. It was recently announced that IBM is losing a big customer, the Pennsylvania Department of Labor. IBM was paid $106.9 million to help the state fix some problems with its unemployment compensation programs from 2006 until September this year. But the state agency now says IBM's project is behind schedule, over budget, and ineffective. An IBM spokesperson nonetheless expressed surprise that the Pennsylvania Department of Labor will not renew the contract and said IBM was willing to work with the state to resolve the project's issues.  

Shares of Bank of America are down 0.8%, which could be the result of a report from The Wall Street Journal indicating that the bank is planning to change its fee structure within Merrill Lynch. Currently, the advisors themselves set the prices wealth-management clients pay, but the bank is considering going to a more structured system in which some clients will pay as much as 50% more for the same services they are already receiving. We have seen in the past when Bank of America announced new checking-account fees a major uproar from clients, and these new fees may cause the same kind of outrage and customer disbursement, which could cost the company more than it will make on the increased fees.  

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The article Dow Fights for Gains Following Disappointing Economic Releases originally appeared on Fool.com.

Fool contributor Matt Thalman owns shares of Bank of America.  Check back Monday through Friday as Matt explains what caused the Dow's winners and losers of the day, and every Saturday for a weekly recap. Follow Matt on Twitter @mthalman5513 The Motley Fool recommends Bank of America and Chevron. The Motley Fool owns shares of Bank of America and International Business Machines. 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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