Stocks Flat as Investors Look Past Weak Employment Numbers

It's been an up-and-down day for stocks as economic indicators gave little direction. Jobless claims jumped 78,000 from a week ago to 439,000, but that was due in large part to the effects of Hurricane Sandy. Manufacturing reports out of Philadelphia and New York also slipped, but again, this was another affect of Hurricane Sandy. So markets gyrated back and forth, and near the end of trading the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI  ) is down 0.49%, while the S&P 500 (INDEX: ^GSPC  )  has fallen 0.38%.

Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT  ) is the biggest loser on the Dow, falling 3.5% after posting disappointing third-quarter revenue. But this isn't a broad sign that the consumer is going into a shell again. Target (NYSE: TGT  ) said that sales rose 3.4% in the U.S. and that its fourth-quarter earnings guidance was well ahead of estimates. Maybe consumers' move from Wal-Mart to Target is a bullish sign for the economy?

Energy stocks are also under pressure today on a number of fronts. Oil has fallen 1% to $85.50 per barrel, and BP (NYSE: BP  ) said it has reached a $4.5 billion settlement with the Department of Justice over the Deepwater Horizon oil spill that killed 11 people in 2010. Dow component Chevron (NYSE: CVX  ) has fallen 1.4% on the energy news.

The biggest winner on the Dow is Cisco (Nasdaq: CSCO  ) , which is riding a bullish wave following a strong earnings report yesterday. The tech sector is looking a little less scary after Cisco's beat, and we may be in for a nice run with some of these stocks trading at incredible values.

Taking the long-term view
Stocks have traded lower recently, but if the "fiscal cliff" is resolved, we could be in for a huge rebound. If you're looking for some long-term investing ideas, let me invite you to read the Fool's brand-new special report: "The 3 Dow Stocks Dividend Investors Need." It's absolutely free, so just click here and get your copy today.


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