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With Friday's surge following the release of unemployment and jobs data, you may be surprised to hear the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI ) was essentially flat for the week, closing up only 0.16%. A few consistently weak days earlier on means that Friday's big run was really just recovering lost ground. Bummer.
But just because the Dow was essentially flat doesn't mean all of the individual components were as boring. In fact, there were quite a few that had a huge week.
Pfizer (NYSE: PFE ) led the charge on the index with a 7.7% gain for the week on a cocktail of good news. The company announced that it'd be vending 20% of its animal-health division in an initial public offering, reported analyst-topping profitability following cost-cutting measures, and reaffirmed its 2012 earnings forecast despite the gaping hole left when Lipitor came off patent. The company seems to have done an excellent job integrating Wyeth into the fold and recovering from the loss of Lipitor through cost-cutting. All eyes are on Bapineuzumab, the potentially blockbuster Alheizmer's treatment created with Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ ) whose sales could slingshot Pfizer higher if proven effective. So far the results have been uninspiring, but both Pfizer and J&J are hoping for better results in a late-stage study.
Procter & Gamble (NYSE: PG ) was hot on Pfizer's heels with a 6.9% gain for the week. The company has taken flak recently for ceding ground to more internationally savvy competitors, but it surprised the market with fourth-quarter earnings that handily beat estimates. Apparently the company's heavily branded and more premium portfolio allowed it to effectively pass on price increases. The company is attacking profits from both ends, though, and CEO Bob McDonald is still targeting $10 billion in savings by 2016 by cutting jobs and marketing. It's uncertain how he'll fare, but the stakes are high as P&G's stock has remained flat for years and activist investor Bill Ackman could be calling for McDonald's head if he doesn't rise to the occasion.
JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM ) was the third best-performing Dow stock this week, notching a 6.5% gain. Most of that figure was fueled by the 2.6% gain on Friday. Just when the company thought the whale of a mess it had on its hands was behind it, trader Bruno Iksil appears to have pushed by bosses to place higher values on some positions than they deserved, in an effort to boost valuations. But that juicy detail is the Wall Street equivalent of gossip and pretty meaningless over the long haul. At the end of the day, JPMorgan is trading at crazy cheap valuations and could be a big winner for the patient investor.
While it's fun to watch stocks pop and drop over short periods like this, it's no way to invest. Instead, real investors make note of news like this but rarely act on it. Instead, they patiently stalk the best companies out there and buy and hold for market-stomping returns. You can do the same thing with The Motley Fool's Top Stock for 2012. It's our chief investment officer's highest-conviction pick for this year, and it may be yours, too, after you read more about it.