The markets just can't make up their minds today in a topsy-turvy close to Wall Street's week. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI ) has swung wildly from significant losses to surging gains, although the blue-chip index has settled down somewhat in afternoon trading for a modest 31-point loss. Stocks are fairly evenly split between risers and fallers on the Dow, and few of the index's members are making serious moves in either direction today. Let's catch up on the top movers and what you need to know as the Dow wraps up the week.
New hope for manufacturing
Chicago's purchasing managers' index roared ahead to 58.7 today, marking its best score in more than a year and easily topping economists' predictions. Chicago's manufacturing gains are a dose of optimism before the U.S. PMI is released. The national index showed only slight manufacturing growth in April, scoring 50.7. If the U.S. PMI follows Chicago's strong score, it'll show an American manufacturing sector that's handily beating some of its top peers. Economists polled by Reuters expect China's PMI to fall barely above the breakeven point of 50 as the second-leading economy continues to slow.
Alcoa's (NYSE: AA ) stock has risen to gains of 0.8% on the reading -- but this aluminum company is far from stable. Ratings agency Moody's cut its credit rating for Alcoa to below investment grade this week, as the aluminum market continues to suffer from pricing pressure. Alcoa has shifted to producing finished aluminum parts and shut down excess capacity in order to slash costs and boost margins, but a dearth of demand continues to loom over the industry. Chinese aluminum-producers have cut back output somewhat this year, but China's slowdown will leave the nation with a sizable surplus. That won't help prices come back any time soon, and Alcoa could be under pressure for a while.
Intel (NASDAQ: INTC ) has been today's biggest winner on the Dow, however. The chip maker's shares have gained 1.3% today after Samsung tapped Intel to provide chips for one of its next-generation Galaxy Tab 3 tablets. It's a big win for Intel, which has struggled with the PC market's fall after dominating the industry for years. Intel has struggled to move into mobile, but Samsung's nod for its popular Galaxy tablets is a measure of relief for investors. Samsung is the second-largest tablet-maker in the world, and if Intel can build more of a relationship with the Korean electronics-maker, it could have a bright future in the mobile world and match up with more successful mobile-chip-making rivals.
One of Samsung's biggest carriers is also unveiling its own changes. Verizon (NYSE: VZ ) shares have nosed up 0.3% today after the telecom firm announced a big update coming soon to its Galaxy S3 phones. The company's taking advantage of the S3's multitasking power to operate multiple apps at the same time through an option called Multi-Window, as well as introducing camera features and other options. Verizon has kept a sizable lead on AT&T in wireless-customer growth, and maintaining a dominant foothold with Samsung customers is another way for Verizon to cement its lead with the Korean phone company's buyers.
Finally, Procter & Gamble (NYSE: PG ) shares are weighing down the Dow today, falling 2.3% to lead all Dow laggards lower. According to reports from The Wall Street Journal, the company is looking to divide its brands and products into four separate segments that would all report to new (and former) CEO A. G. Lafley. Lafley's comeback has sparked both optimism and caution among P&G observers, as the firm has struggled since Lafley's departure in 2009. Lafley has stated that he plans to continue his predecessor's cost-cutting moves, but a new direction -- even a subtle one such as this brand division -- is inevitable for the company to keep sales moving higher.
Can Intel beat the PC industry's fall?
When it comes to dominating markets, it doesn't get much better than Intel's position in the PC microprocessor arena. However, that market is maturing, and Intel must find new avenues for growth. In this premium research report on Intel, a Motley Fool analyst runs through all of the key topics investors should understand about the chip giant. Click here now to learn more.