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Today represented a pause in the action for investors who are looking forward to the official beginning of the fourth-quarter earnings season tomorrow. Despite concerns about the need for the federal government to resolve a host of coming problems in the next few months, anticipation on the earnings front will take center stage in the days and weeks to come.
With expectations again fairly low, the market could move sharply in either direction depending on how individual companies fare. For today, though, the Dow Jones Industrials (INDEX: ^DJI ) took a rest from last week's huge move upward, closing the day down about 50 points.
Within the Dow, McDonald's (NYSE: MCD ) was the standout contrarian gainer, rising more than 1%. The fast-food company is offering chicken wings to its menu. With a new test set for Chicago after success in Atlanta last year, the move to offer what the restaurant is calling "Mighty Wings" could help broaden McDonald's appeal even as chicken-wing prices remain stubbornly high.
Outside the Dow, Facebook (Nasdaq: FB ) continued its New Year's run with a gain of more than 2%. Even though many investors will never forgive the company for its botched and overpriced IPO last year, Facebook is making progress on the business front, pushing its personalized advertising experience forward in an effort to woo new ad customers. With minor yet measurable successes on the mobile front, Facebook could keep moving higher in the absence of bad news shooting down the bullish thesis.
Finally, Rentech Nitrogen Partners (NYSE: RNF ) hit a new all-time high, rising more than 5%. The fertilizer master limited partnership didn't release any company-specific news, but it and rival Terra Nitrogen (NYSE: TNH ) have had huge success in the space as farm prices remain high enough to justify expenses to enhance crop yields. As long as the natural gas Rentech Nitrogen needs in order to produce its fertilizers stays cheap, the company should keep doing well.
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