Investors might not like bad news, but they generally know how to handle it. What investors really hate, though, is uncertainty, and today's conflicting statements from the Federal Reserve contributed to a general feeling of unease among investors about the future of quantitative easing and U.S. monetary policy. Early comments from Fed Chair Ben Bernanke seemed to indicate that the Fed's bond-purchase program might continue unabated for the foreseeable future.
But when the minutes of the most recent Federal Open Market Committee meeting were released in the afternoon, they revealed a much more divided set of opinions, with some members calling for reduction in bond purchases as early as next month. In response, the markets quickly reversed substantial early gains, and the Dow Jones Industrials (DJINDICES: ^DJI ) ended falling more than 80 points after having risen more than 150 earlier in the session.
Even with that big reversal, some Dow stocks managed to gain. Pfizer remained the biggest winner in the Dow, rising nearly 2% as it outlined a strategy for divesting itself of part of its stake in its Zoetis animal health unit. But among other winners was Home Depot (NYSE: HD ) , which climbed 1.25% to follow through on substantial gains from yesterday as well. Part of the big gain came from weakness at rival Lowe's (NYSE: LOW ) , which reported earnings that disappointed investors, with net income gains of just 2.5% and troubles in its garden business. With a combination of smart store placement in the less weather-sensitive regions of the country and more of an emphasis on professional builders and contractors rather than homeowners, Home Depot has managed to beat out its smaller rival for years, through both the housing bust and the ensuing recovery.
JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM ) also climbed more than 1% in the aftermath of CEO Jamie Dimon's victory yesterday in retaining his dual leadership role at the bank. Clearly, JPMorgan also stands to see a big impact from whatever decision the Fed makes about interest rates, but, arguably, the best result for the bank would be for it to stop long-term bond purchases but maintain its control of the short end of the yield curve. Such a move would allow JPMorgan to reap even greater interest spreads and boost profits from interest income.
Finally, outside the Dow, Tangoe (NASDAQ: TNGO ) jumped 7% after it entered into a software development cooperation agreement with German giant SAP. The deal will greatly enhance Tangoe's exposure and credibility in the telecom expense management solutions space, while helping SAP broaden its overall offerings to help customers develop and manage their mobile ecosystems.
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!