Why the Dow Is Flat Ahead of the Long Weekend

Blue-chip stocks are flat this afternoon heading into the long Memorial Day weekend. With roughly an hour left in the trading session, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) is up by a mere two points.

A report released this morning contained evidence that the economy, while still relatively stagnant, is at least headed in the right direction. According to the Department of Commerce (link opens PDF), orders for durable goods increased by 3.3% last month to a seasonally adjusted $222.6 billion.

The results were positive on two fronts. First, many analysts and economists were concerned following the 5.9% contraction in durable-goods orders recorded in March. At the time, many attributed it to reduced government expenditures tied to the sequester. And second, the results for April beat expectations: Economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires had forecast a 1.3% increase.

A deeper examination of the numbers reveals that the best-performing categories were related to aircraft orders. While nondefense aircraft orders increased an impressive 18% over March, defense orders shot up by a staggering 53% -- though, to be fair, both categories had particularly weak showings in March relative to February.

In terms of individual stocks, shares of Proctor & Gamble (NYSE: PG  ) are leading the Dow higher, up by 4% in mid-afternoon trading. The consumer staples giant has struggled recently to extricate itself from strategic missteps abroad. And as we learned yesterday, the most recent victim of this underperformance is P&G's now-former CEO Bob McDonald. It was announced late yesterday that McDonald's predecessor A. G. Lafley, will step back into the roles of president, chairman, and CEO, effective immediately.

Alternatively, the worst-performing stock on the blue-chip index is Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ  ) , down by 2% at the time of writing. Earlier this week, the struggling personal-computer maker reported its results for the fiscal second quarter. While sales fell across all but two of HP's 15 business segments, the company nevertheless beat bottom-line estimates, sending its shares skyrocketing. By the end of the next day, they finished 17% higher. It shouldn't be a huge surprise, in turn, to see investors taking money off the table today.

The massive wave of mobile computing has done much to unseat the major players in the PC market, including venerable technology names like Hewlett-Packard. However, HP is rapidly shifting its strategy under the leadership of CEO Meg Whitman. But does this make HP one of the least-appreciated turnaround stories on the market, or is this a minor detour on its road to irrelevance? The Motley Fool's technology analyst details exactly what investors need to know about HP in our new premium research report. Just click here now to get your copy today.


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