These Stocks Pulled the Dow Back From the Brink

Things looked ugly for a long time today, as fears about Europe's ongoing sovereign-debt woes weighed on markets around the world. But comments later in the day from Italy's prime minister and the newly elected president of France helped reassure investors that European nations would do all they could to try to reignite growth in the region. The pep rally worked, and after being down almost 200 points earlier in the session and having had all 30 of its components in the red, the Dow Jones Industrials (INDEX: ^DJI  ) staged an impressive afternoon rebound, eventually finishing the day with only a tiny loss of about 7 points. Broader market measures actually posted gains on the day.

Some of the Dow's stocks actually managed to post decent gains today. Bank of America (NYSE: BAC  ) was the big winner on the session, jumping 2.7%. The move came even as a report from The Wall Street Journal revealed that Freddie Mac forced the bank to buy back $330 million in mortgages over technical issues. While the report reawakens B of A's long connection with questionable mortgage practices, the amount involved is insignificant compared with the nearly $2.2 trillion in assets that B of A carries on its balance sheet.

Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT  ) did something we haven't seen much of from Dow companies lately: It hit a new 52-week high, rising 1.3%. CEO Bill Simon said its small-format Walmart Express stores are becoming profitable within a year after they open, beating the company's own expectations. The fact that the retailer has been able to maintain strength in its stock price even in the midst of its bribery scandal in Mexico speaks volumes to the progress that Wal-Mart has made in the past year.

Finally, Alcoa (NYSE: AA  ) also rose 1.3%. Low aluminum prices led the company to delay expanding an Australian refining plant. Given that rival Norsk announced a full shutdown of its aluminum smelter on the island continent, it appears that the pieces are falling into place that should eventually lead to a recovery in aluminum prices. Some smaller players might have to go out of business before Alcoa and other big survivors can reap the rewards, but it should happen eventually.

When a flat close is good news
Coming back from a big deficit is always a good sign for the market. But will it help your stocks? Your best bet is to pick only the stocks with the best prospects. If you want one more idea for your portfolio, be sure to find out about the company that the Fool's own chief investment officer named The Motley Fool's top stock for 2012. It's all in our free special report, which you can read free and discover the name of this stock.

Fool contributor Dan Caplinger doesn't own shares of the companies mentioned. You can follow him on Twitter, @DanCaplinger. The Motley Fool owns shares of Bank of America. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a diagonal call position in Wal-Mart. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Fool has a disclosure policy.


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