Markets Have an Up and Down Day Following Mixed Economic Data

Mixed economic news sent the markets sideways again today. Initial jobless claims dropped by 3,000 last week, according to the Labor Department, but the reported figure of 382,000 was above expectations. There hasn't been much of a change in jobless claims, and it is unlikely we'll see much change in the unemployment rate in two weeks.

While jobless claims improved slightly, the amount of household debt rose at the fastest rate in four years, and manufacturing continued to contract in the Philadelphia region. These are both negative long-term signs for the economy, and they show just how uncertain matters are right now.

All of this leads to a Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI  ) that has only moved 0.04% higher and an S&P 500 (INDEX: ^GSPC  ) that is down just 0.07%.

Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) is one of the Dow's leaders after a German court found that Motorola Mobility infringed on its patents. The Google-owned company might have to pull devices from stores if it doesn't agree to a licensing deal in the country. This is an incremental win for Microsoft in mobile.

Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ  ) and Caterpillar (NYSE: CAT  ) both declined more than 1.5% today, leading the losers on the Dow. HP said this morning that is wasn't looking for buyers for its Electronic Data Systems outsourcing business, but rumors that it was shopping the business have sent investors fleeing. This unit has already been slashed since it was bought in 2008, and more cuts are coming in HP's announced layoffs. Caterpillar, on the hand, is lower because of unimpressive economic news and is returning to pre-central-bank-stimulus levels of a few weeks ago.

A deeper look
So are Microsoft and Caterpillar worth buying in the current environment? We take a deep look in our premium reports on the stocks. Find out more about Microsoft by clicking here and Caterpillar by clicking here.

Fool contributor Travis Hoium manages an account that owns shares of Microsoft. You can follow Travis on Twitter at @FlushDrawFool, check out his personal stock holdings, or follow his CAPS picks at TMFFlushDraw.

The Motley Fool owns shares of Microsoft and Google. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Google and Microsoft. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a synthetic covered call position in Microsoft. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.


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