Dow Shrugs Off Stormy Economic Data

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI  ) was throwing head fakes left and right today, pushing into positive territory several times before finishing down 28 points, or 0.23%. The market shrugged off a host of negative Sandy-related economic data to muster what qualifies as a decent day, considering the macroeconomic climate and recent performance.

Initial unemployment claims jumped 22%, to 439,000, as the number of newly jobless in states affected by the Superstorm skyrocketed last week. Economists expect that figure to come down quickly, though, and they've said that Sandy could drop fourth-quarter GDP by as much as half a percentage point. Most of that loss should be made up early next year, however.

Manufacturing data from the Northeast also confirmed the effects of the hurricane, as the Philadelphia Fed reported its index of the region dropped from 5.7 in September, to -10.7 in October, indicating a sharp contraction, while a similar assessment in New York came in at -5.2.

The biggest newsmaker on the Dow today was Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT  ) , which fell 3.6%, after delivering a mixed earnings report. Earnings per share improved from $0.96 a year ago to $1.08, beating estimates by a penny, but revenue fell short. The world's biggest retailer said revenue grew 3.4%, to $113.2 billion, but analysts had projected $114.9 billion. Without currency translation losses, Wal-Mart would have hit that number. Management also gave fourth-quarter guidance below expectations, at $1.53-$1.58. Separately, Wal-Mart said it had extended its bribery investigation, after a scandal in Mexico broke earlier this year, to other major international markets including China, India, and Brazil.

Elsewhere, Bank of America (NYSE: BAC  ) moved up 1.1%, on news that it offered $15.8 billion in mortgage relief to homeowners affected by the financial crisis as part of the National Mortgage Settlement agreement. The financial giant is on pace to complete its obligation by February, and it also announced that it would move into mobile payments. Square, one if the industry leaders, today said that the value of payments it's processed has grown by 400% in the past year, to $10 billion.

Finally, outside the Dow, BP (NYSE: BP  ) accepted criminal penalties and agreed to pay $4.5 billion for its role in the Gulf oil spill in 2010. The settlement included the biggest corporate criminal fine in history, at $1.26 billion, and two supervisors aboard the rig were charged with multiple counts, including manslaughter. Investors hardly flinched at the news, though, and shares rose slightly by 0.35%.

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