As my colleague Dan Caplinger noted earlier today, it’s difficult to pinpoint just one reason the markets are falling today. Economic news has flowed from all around the world, and investors and have sent the markets sharply lower. As of 12:50 p.m. EDT the Dow Jones Industrial Average has lost 189 points, or 1.25%, to fall back below the 15,000 mark. The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq are both lower by about 1.3%. Only one of the Dow’s 30 components is in the green at the time of writing, while the other 29 have all fallen substantially. With Cisco Systems, Inc. (NASDAQ:CSCO) being the lone winner, up 0.9%, the next-best performer is Pfizer Inc. (NYSE:PFE), which is down 0.4%.
Despite announcing what investors should see as good news today, Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) and UnitedHealth Group Inc. (NYSE:UNH) are both being dragged down with the broader market. Shares of Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) are down 0.1.1%, while UnitedHealth Group Inc. (NYSE:UNH) has fallen 0.9%.
Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT)’s good news was that the company unveiled a new version of the Windows 8 operating system, dubbed Windows 8.1. The product will be released later this year for both PCs and tablets. It will bring back the traditional “Start” button, and a few other tweaks have been made to the software after the company listened to customers’ complaints about the current version. The Windows 8 system was a big change from the older versions of Windows, so a few updates along the way should come as no surprise, and the fact that the company is listening to customers and adapting to their preferences shows that Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) still has the customer in mind.
UnitedHealth Group Inc. (NYSE:UNH)’s good news was an increase to its current dividend and a renewed share repurchase program. The dividend was increased by 32%, or nearly $0.07. This is a sign that management feels confident in current revenue streams and has the shareholder in mind when making decisions. The share repurchase program was also authorized to buy back 110 million shares over time. And while I would personally rather see higher dividends than increased share buybacks, they are both good ways to return value to investors.