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A second day of no economic news to speak of is taking its toll again on the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI ) . Though the index was boosted early in trading, with gains topping out at 64 points, it has since fallen, waffling between gains and losses. Investors may be sending the Dow mixed signals as they wait to hear Fed Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke testify before Congress tomorrow. Luckily for the index, it's got some support from within to push it higher.
The Bernanke factor
During a lean week of economic news, it's no wonder that Wall Street is waiting to hear what Bernanke says to Congress about the state of the economy. Speculation about the slowdown of the current stimulus policy is running rampant as more and more signs point to members of the Federal Open Market Committee being in favor of cutting back.
Though the recent FOMC meeting resulted in no changes to the current bond buyback policy, the meeting's minutes and subsequent comments from members seem to be preparing investors for the inevitable slowdown -- though no timeline has been provided. Since Bernanke is speaking with the Joint Economic Committee on the Hill tomorrow, the slightest hint of change may send the markets into a tizzy.
Inside the Dow
Home Depot (NYSE: HD ) is up big this morning after reporting better-than-expected first-quarter earnings. Up 2.16% just after 11 a.m. EDT, the home improvement store said that its improved results are thanks to the rebounding housing market. Both revenue and earnings beat expectations, leading the retailer to increase its outlook for the remainder of the year. With a variety of housing market data coming out in the next two days, there may be bigger increases for Home Depot if the positive trends of the market continue.
Travelers Companies (NYSE: TRV ) took a hit this morning following yesterday's horrific tornado outside of Oklahoma City. The insurance company, along with many of its competitors, trended lower yesterday following the natural disaster. Since Travelers is one of the nation's largest property and casualty insurance providers, the extent of the damage sustained yesterday may hurt second-quarter earnings. Rival AIG (NYSE: AIG ) ranks higher in market share for P&C coverage, but both will have catastrophic losses to report in the coming weeks -- once the damage has been assessed.
JPMorgan (NYSE: JPM ) is helping offset some of the investor uncertainty surrounding the market these days, as preliminary tallies of the shareholder vote to split the CEO and chairman roles are being called in favor of Jamie Dimon keeping both titles. The bank is up 1.2% as of this writing, with many investors showing their confidence in the bank regardless of the vote. In the past five days, the bank has gained 5% while the vote was still up in the air. Though Dimon may keep both his jobs, some other directors may be booted from their positions on the risk management committee. With regulators pointing to oversight as the bank's biggest weakness, this isn't a surprise for JPM -- which needs to demonstrate to shareholders that it can adjust when necessary to address problems.
With big finance firms still trading at deep discounts to their historic norms, investors everywhere are wondering if this is the new normal, or if finance stocks are a screaming buy today. The answer depends on the company, so to help figure out whether JPMorgan is a buy today, check out The Motley Fool's premium research report on the company. Click here now for instant access!