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The markets started the day with a heavy sell-off before gaining a little steam and inching closer toward positive territory. However, the rally was short-lived, with all major indices down. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI ) fared the best of the three majors, down 0.78% to close at 12,927. The sell-off started early this morning overseas, with the Stoxx Europe 600 down 2.3%.
The cause of the heavy amount of selling today was the all too familiar uncertainty in the European debt market and signs of cooling growth in China. The European worries took the form of political uncertainty, with the French incumbent, Prime Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, seeing heavy opposition in the country's election. The fiscally conservative Dutch also made noise as the prime minister and his cabinet offered to resign after budget talks disassembled. Meanwhile, China released data showing that manufacturing is once again slowing, albeit at a better clip than last month -- but the fact that growth is slowing at all frightens investors.
Despite the prevalent sell-off, three Dow stocks ended the day in the green. With that in mind, let's take a closer look and see what buoyed these stocks today.
ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM ) rallied today by 0.46%, mainly on analysts' rosy outlooks. A report in The Wall Street Journal reported that analysts believe Exxon will boost its dividend later this week, most likely on Friday, when it reports earnings. This report falls in line with the forecast at Raymond James, an analyst that updated Exxon's target price to $100 and gave the energy giant an "outperform" rating.
Travelers (NYSE: TRV ) continued its soft trend of gains since reporting earnings last week. The company has pulled off a few good plays, all of which have been favorably received. Last week, after surpassing expectations and reporting a winning first quarter, The Umbrella raised dividends 12%, to the delight of shareholders, and revealed an average premium increase of 8%, to the chagrin of policyholders. The higher premiums, however, will help strengthen reserves after last year's losses resulting from a number of weather-related catastrophes. Today, Bloomberg released a report showing that a collection of analysts on average raised the target price outlook for 2012 by 1.3%.
JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM ) ended the day up 0.30% while rumors of its deal to sell its U.S. metal concentrates business heated up. The banking giant is also said to be raising a $513 million collateralized loan obligation for Carlyle Group.
Today should remind us that even when the broader market it down, you can still find plays that will make you money. Now that we're a month into the second quarter of 2012, I believe now is another great time to invite you to look at some of the top stocks for 2012. Our analysts have picked five investments that all investors will need to be familiar with. The report is free for a limited time -- don't let 2012 slip by without cashing in on these great stocks!