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Until today, the stock market had largely focused this week on earnings reports. With a mixed bag of results from a variety of companies, stocks had put in a pretty strong performance. But today, all that changed, as problems in Europe reminded investors that the global economic situation isn't nearly as stable as many would like. As a result, the Dow Jones Industrials (INDEX: ^DJI ) lost 120 points on the session, and the S&P 500 (INDEX: ^GSPC ) dropped 1%, following most foreign markets lower.
Only three stocks managed to buck the downtrend today. The biggest gainer was Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT ) , jumping 1%, as ratings agency Fitch reaffirmed the retailers AA bond rating and stable outlook. But, more exciting, is the news that broke last night that Facebook (Nasdaq: FB ) CEO Mark Zuckerberg planned to meet with top executives at Wal-Mart in Arkansas today and tomorrow. Yet, given that Facebook didn't respond to the news favorably, falling almost 1%, speculation may prove to have been unfounded. Meanwhile, Wal-Mart is well-positioned for a slowdown, just like it was four years ago preceding the last recession and the financial crisis.
General Electric (NYSE: GE ) rose a third of a percent as it reported earnings. The company's net income for the second quarter beat expectations, but the company also said that it would reduce its expected contributions to its pension plan by 60%, to just $400 million for the year, taking advantage of a new law allowing the reduction. Meanwhile, MetLife said that it expects the SEC to approve a deal that would allow the insurance company to sell banking assets to GE. For the industrial giant, the move seems like a reversal of its strategy to deemphasize its financial arm in favor of its traditional businesses.
Finally, Chevron (NYSE: CVX ) gained 0.3%, despite comments from Brazilian regulators that argued that the oil company could have avoided the 3,700-barrel spill off the coast of Brazil late last year. The investigation also found that the spill was about 40% higher than expected. Regardless, it's increasingly clear that any damages from the Brazilian incident won't be nearly as high as the $11 billion figure that was initially given as a possibility.
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