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Yesterday, investors had high hopes that today's job numbers would give some positive signs about the health of the economy. Unfortunately, what they got, instead, was cold water in their faces, as payroll gains of only 80,000, and no change to the stubbornly high 8.2% unemployment rate, reawakened concerns that attempts to jump-start economic growth aren't getting people back to work. Although the stock market closed well off the low of the day, the Dow Jones Industrials (INDEX: ^DJI ) still dropped 124 points, or almost 1%.
The vast majority of Dow stocks lost ground on the day, but there were still a few winners. More than half a dozen stocks closed higher on the day, however. Home Depot (NYSE: HD ) eked out a gain of a few cents on the day, although the most interesting news about the company came from a Wall Street Journal article on how the company, and several other Atlanta-based corporations, are lobbying for increased city sales taxes in their home city to finance needed infrastructure improvements. Increasingly, companies could find themselves as key players in similar negotiations, especially as cash-strapped local governments struggle to afford expenditures.
Once again, though, the weak-economy plays were among the best performers today. Both McDonald's (NYSE: MCD ) and Wal-Mart aim squarely at low-end customers with their value-priced offerings, and both stocks have found ways to succeed in economic environments in which their higher-end peers have failed miserably.
Finally, Dow telecoms Verizon and AT&T (NYSE: T ) both posted modest gains on this losing day. Investors are starting to look forward to the expected release of the iPhone 5 this fall, and with both AT&T and Verizon moving away from unlimited data plans, the question remains whether customers will stick with the carriers or, instead, move to rival Sprint (NYSE: S ) . In an industry dominated by subsidized phones, the carriers need to sort out their differences if they want to unite against smartphone manufacturers to impose a more profitable scheme for their own business models.
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