With consumer confidence falling in April and gross domestic product in the first quarter coming in lower than expected, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI ) was lucky to eke out any gains at all today. It was the fourth gain in five days for blue chips, which had their worst week of the year last week but added back more than 1% as a flurry of earnings helped the comeback. The Dow ended up 11 points, or less than 0.1%, on Friday to close at 14,712.
Wall Street thought Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ ) shares looked undervalued today, and even after adding 1.9% Friday, shares traded at less than six times forward earnings. Rebounding from losses yesterday, HP posted the highest gains in the index today. In recent years the company has felt the brutal impact of the PC market decline, and its stock took the biggest hit in the index last year. So while the bullishness of 2013 -- the stock is up more than 40% year to date -- reflects some optimism about CEO Meg Whitman's turnaround efforts, the stock is still rallying from fairly depressed levels.
Yes, oil prices fell 7.5% across the globe, and yes, Chevron's (NYSE: CVX ) earnings dropped 4.5% in the first quarter, yet shares still added 1.3% today after the energy giant reported. While oil production slipped, increased traction in the natural gas business showed some promise, as natural gas sales rose 3.2%.
BB&T upgraded its rating of Boeing's (NYSE: BA ) stock from a hold to a buy, and the aerospace giant responded by adding 1.3%. BB&T's new price target of $110 was echoed the day before by Barclays and its overweight rating on Boeing shares. Yesterday, Boeing received approval from the FAA for its 787 Dreamliner planes to return to the air for United Airlines.
Aluminum giant Alcoa (NYSE: AA ) ended as the worst performer in the index Friday, slipping 1.4% after slipping prices in the metal caused Standard & Poor's to downgrade the company's credit rating. Not good for Alcoa, which will have to pay a higher rate for money it wants to borrow going forward.
Materials industries are traditionally known for their high barriers to entry, and the aluminum industry is no exception. Controlling about 15% of global production in this highly consolidated industry, Alcoa is in prime position to take advantage of growth that some expect will lead to total industry revenue approaching $160 billion by 2017. Based on this prospect and several other company-specific factors, Alcoa is certainly worth a closer look. For a Foolish investment perspective on this global giant simply click here now to get started.