The year has just three months left to go, and barring a last-quarter meltdown for the markets, it looks like it's going to be a good year for investors. The Dow Jones Industrials  have posted gains of more than 15%, holding on to substantial rises in the early part of the year despite increasing challenges on many fronts during the spring and summer months.

Even though the Dow has performed well, though, some of its components haven't been nearly as fortunate. Let's take a closer look at the Dow's worst performers during the first nine months of 2013.

Caterpillar , down 6%
Caterpillar has been the worst-performing stock in the Dow so far this year, as the heavy-equipment maker has faced new challenges on top of some of the problems it has had to deal with for a long time. On top of the sluggishness in the construction and infrastructure industries worldwide, the plunge in commodities like precious metals have crushed the mining sector, hurting prospects for Caterpillar's sales of mining equipment. With multiple reductions to its guidance and recent layoff announcements, Caterpillar could have further to fall before it hits bottom.


IBM , down 2%
IBM's woes have come from concerns about the tech giant's ability to sustain its revenue levels. The company reported sales declines in both of its first two quarterly reports for 2013, and despite raising its guidance for the remainder of the year in its June-quarter results, IBM remains troubled by extremely tough competition in the increasingly popular big data arena. Even though IBM still has one of the most valuable brands in the world, it nevertheless needs to turn its sales slump around in order for its stock to follow suit.

ExxonMobil , up 1%
ExxonMobil's weak performance has stemmed from recent drops in the oil giant's profitability. A combination of events, including declining production, falling margins for its refining segment, downtime from maintenance, and a loss of pricing power for its specialty chemical production all added up to a substantial drop in earnings in Exxon's second quarter. Given stalled oil prices and the ongoing challenge of finding new sources of oil and gas production to replace depleted assets, Exxon shareholders need to be prepared for more tough times ahead.

AT&T , up 4%
AT&T has had to deal with extreme competitive pressures in 2013, as rival Verizon has taken a huge step forward by deciding finally to take full control of its Verizon Wireless joint venture. The move will cost Verizon $130 billion, but it will also change the landscape of the U.S. wireless industry and arguably put Verizon in a much better competitive position compared to AT&T. Many analysts expect AT&T to respond with a buyout or strategic partnership of its own, but for investors seeking growth, the company hasn't been able to prove where it intends to find new avenues for expansion. Until it does, the stock could remain under pressure.

Don't Miss Out on Great Dow Stocks
These four stocks haven't delivered the returns investors want, but you can still find solid high-quality alternatives within the Dow. To learn about some great prospects for long-term investors, you're invited to check out The Motley Fool's brand-new special report, "The 3 Dow Stocks Dividend Investors Need." It's absolutely free, so simply click here now and get your copy today.

The article The Dow's Worst Stocks So Far in 2013 originally appeared on Fool.com.

Fool contributor Dan Caplinger has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of IBM. 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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