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Apparently markets can head a direction other than down. Not to sound overly short-termist, but the past week has been an absolutely brutal one for investors. However, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI ) broke out of its recent funk and posted a much-welcomed gain today. On the day, the Dow gained only 26.5 points, or 0.2%, but investors will welcome anything in the green after the market's recent malaise.
Both the Nasdaq and the S&P 500 took the Dow's cue and rose 0.7% and 0.6%, respectively. The market's so-called "fear gauge," or the VIX (INDEX: ^VIX ) , also retreated today by 5.5%, signaling that investors' nerves calmed slightly as well during the trading session. Today marked the first day in the past five that the Dow actually gained ground.
Around the markets
Today's trading session featured several important storylines. In technology, Facebook continued its slow march south, giving up yet another 3.8% and marking yet again a new all-time low for the social-networking website. Shares of online content delivery provider Akamai Technologies posted a Facebook-esque loss as well today, dropping 3.2%. News surfaced today that Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX ) has opted to build out its own content delivery system in favor of Akamai's services. Shares of Netflix declined as well today, dropping a measly 0.3%.
Highly volatile stocks also rebounded strongly today. Shares of medical-device maker MAKO Surgical (Nasdaq: MAKO ) surged 7% on the day. Despite today's strong performance, the stock still sits a cool 42.1% lower than where it traded a mere month ago. Likewise, shares of Westport Innovations (Nasdaq: WPRT ) jumped 21.3% today. Westport, which manufactures natural gas conversion kits for heavy equipment and trucks, announced a partnership with global heavy-machinery leader Caterpillar to provide engines for some of Cat's mining and off-road and locomotive models. With natural gas prices still acutely skewed from their historical price relationship with oil, many investors are banking on Westport as a way to play the fuels remarkable cheapness. Looks like they're receiving some serious vindication today.
Where do we go from here?
As the past several weeks clearly reinforced for investors, major macroeconomic storylines primarily move the market. With so many storylines still evolving, especially in Europe, investors should maintain a conservative stance. Times like the present, which could precede a major market sell-off, serve as perfect opportunities to find stocks you'll want to buy if things indeed get worse -- stocks that can help fund a retirement. That's why The Motley Fool recently issued a research report detailing three great stocks for retirement savers. If markets continue to pull back, you'll absolutely want to know more about these stocks that have all the makings of long-term winner, so grab your free copy today.