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The Dow Now: Health Care Stocks Show Strength in Bearish Market

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Financials were down on the day.

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US stocks eased slightly in mid-Tuesday trading, with all eyes turned towards the new corporate earnings season, which aluminum producer Alcoa (NYSE:AA) will kick off after the market close.

"With what we believe will be a so-so earnings season immediately ahead and the debt ceiling debate looming next month, we now see the stock market running into occasional pullbacks or periods of consolidation during the next six to eight weeks," noted Fred Dickson, chief investment strategist at Davidson, according to MarketWatch.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEXDJX:.DJI) was down 0.49% to 13,318.93 points as of 12:15 p.m. EST.

Despite reporting that it sold more than 10 million smartphones in the fourth quarter, which marked a new record, AT&T (NYSE:T) slid 1.20% to $34.52 on an overall bearish day for telecommunications stock.

Verizon (NYSE:VZ) also declined 1.70% to $43.42, while Sprint (NYSE:S) retreated 1.51% to $5.87.

Boeing (NYSE:BA) dropped 2.04% to $74.58 after it was downgraded to Hold from Buy at BB&T Capital Markets.

Financial stocks were also broadly lower in intraday trading. Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) (-1.08%), JPMorgan (NYSE:JPM) (-0.57%), and American Express (NYSE:AXP) (-0.38%) were all down on the day. The bellwether Financial Select Sector SPDR ETF (NYSEARCA:XLF), which tracks the financial stocks in the S&P 500 (INDEXSP:.INX), fell 0.65% to $16.90.

Health care stocks were among the strongest performers. Dow components Merck (NYSE:MRK) (+1.24%) and Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) (+0.92%) were both up on the day. The Health Care Sector SPDR ETF (NYSEARCA:XLV) lifted 0.22% to $41.12.

"Historically defensive and noncyclical, the health care sector is seeing added growth from an aging America. Demand is relatively stable because people require treatment regardless of the economy, and baby boomers needing greater treatment make for a compelling secular-growth story," wrote Morningstar analyst Robert Goldsborough in a report, according to ETF Trends.

Twitter: @sterlingwong
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No positions in stocks mentioned.
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