Don't let it get away!
Keep track of the stocks that matter to you.
Help yourself with the Fool's FREE and easy new watchlist service today.
The stock market initially rose sharply in light of generally favorable earnings from Caterpillar and 3M but gave up those gains in afternoon trading. News of weaker-than-forecast new home sales that fell for the first time in four months dampened hopes that the housing market may have hit bottom. Just after 2 p.m. EST, the Dow Jones Industrials (INDEX: ^DJI ) were down just two points to 12,755, while the S&P 500 fell six points to 1,320.
Beyond the earnings scene, Home Depot (NYSE: HD ) fell almost 1.5%, due largely to the bad housing news. Only 302,000 new homes were sold in 2011, down 6% from 2010 levels and the lowest number since government data began tracking figures in 1963.
Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT ) stock also fell, losing about 1%. The world's biggest retailer faces the potential for greatly increased competition from J.C. Penney (NYSE: JCP ) , which jumped sharply by about 11% on hopes that the turnaround led by new CEO Ron Johnson will be successful. With a combination of price cuts, store overhauls, and pushing further into the discount arena, J.C. Penney is definitely getting into Wal-Mart's traditional turf.
On the upside, Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ ) saw modest gains, following through on yesterday's small advance in the aftermath of its quarterly earnings release. The company returned to revenue growth with a 5.6% jump in 2011 sales, but all of that came from international markets. If the dollar remains strong, then currency headwinds could continue to play a role in holding J&J back.
Don't rely on the Dow for the best stocks you can have in your portfolio. We've got some ideas that could let you retire in style. The Motley Fool's latest special report reveals the names of three stocks you really ought to own. The report is yours free if you click here -- but don't wait: do it now before it's gone.