Investors may have started the day looking anxiously at what the Federal Open Market Committee minutes would say about the Federal Reserve's thinking process regarding the economy and interest rates. But in the end, it proved to be much ado about nothing, as the minutes gave no clear direction about whether the Fed might take further action to boost the economy's prospects. After initially falling after the minutes were released, the Dow Jones Industrials (INDEX: ^DJI ) eventually recovered to right about where they had traded before the announcement, falling almost 50 points.
But even though the majority of Dow stocks fell, there were a few beacons of hope among the average's 30 components. Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ ) was the big gainer in the Dow, rising more than 3% and bouncing strongly after hitting a new seven-year low yesterday. Although Zacks reported that HP had signed a three-year renewal of its service contract with Delaware's Medicaid division, today's gains more likely come from bottom-fishing value investors looking for a turnaround. Yet until HP can figure out which direction it wants to head, a lasting recovery probably won't take hold.
Bank of America (NYSE: BAC ) jumped almost 2% even as a judge ruled that its shareholders could sue the company for allegedly misleading them about its mortgage business, including exposure to mortgage-backed securities and problems with the electronic mortgage registry that eventually led to the massive foreclosure investigation settlement. Investors may be cheering reports of more rounds of job cuts, even as peer Morgan Stanley (NYSE: MS ) starts cutting staff. At some point, though, a smaller workforce at B of A will start to have a big impact on revenue as well as costs.
Finally, ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM ) gained 1.5% on a strong day for oil, which climbed more than $2 to $86 per barrel. With the company expecting to start production this week on a project off the coast of Angola, Exxon is showing that it's not content even with its massive size and is still seeking growth opportunities.
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