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After early losses stocks are swinging back to positive territory early this afternoon before crashing about an hour before the close. At 3:15 p.m. EDT the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI ) us down 0.15% and the S&P 500 (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC ) is off 0.34% for the day. The big economic news of the day was a 4,000-person drop in jobless claims last week to 323,000. The four-week average, which smoothes out weekly volatility, is down to 336,750, the lowest it's been since November 2007.
McDonald's (NYSE: MCD ) is one of the big laggards, dropping 1.2% on continued pressure after weak same-store sales numbers. Global same-store sales dropped 0.6% on weakness in Asia. The drop in sales was short-term in nature because of the avian flu concerns in China so I would see the drop as an opportunity to buy. The stock has just a 16 forward P/E ratio and pays a 3% dividend so investors are getting a solid value right now.
3M (NYSE: MMM ) is trying its hardest to pull the Dow higher, gaining 1.8% today. There are no huge drivers of the stock, but investors are starting to realize the value in 3M stock and appreciate the small innovations the company is making. Shares trade at just 15 times forward estimates and pay a 2.4% dividend, which has grown for 53 straight years, so there's value there.
The company also just simplified its masking tape line with what it's calling 3M Masking Made Simple. There are five levels of tape in it, for household uses to industrial performance tapes. With dozens of types of tape at nearly every store where 3M Masking Tape is sold, this should make it easier to determine the right tape for the job.
With over 50,000 products, 3M plays a role in making everything from computers to power cables. A long history of invention and innovation has driven the company to its wide reach, but a focus on operational efficiency may be hurting the creative culture that once created Scotch Tape and the Post-it note. A new leader has taken over and vows to return innovation to the forefront. Does this mean the stock will become more than a dividend, returning to its former glory as a growth stock once again? Find out whether 3M has what it takes to pull it off in The Motley Fool's comprehensive new research report on the company. Simply click here now to claim your copy today.