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Well, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI ) is looking as unpredictable as ever. After a sharp sell-off last week shaved nearly 4% off the blue chips in just two sessions, the Dow notched its third consecutive gain of 100 points or more, to finish back above 15,000. For today's session, the index moved up 114 points, or 0.8%.
As has been the theme recently, Fed talk dominated the market mentality today, as more than one regional president made comments to assuage investors that the central bank wouldn't pull the rug out too fast on the $85-billion monthly bond-buying program. New York Fed President William Dudley said that tapering the stimulus was contingent on improving economic conditions, and that the Fed would act according to the overall outlook. Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart made similar comments, indicating the Fed would not act hastily.
In today's other economic news, last week's initial unemployment claims came in in-line with expectations, at 346,000, while pending home sales jumped 6.7% last month, well ahead of projections of just a 1.5% increase. Investors have been concerned that rising mortgage rates could kill the housing recovery, but treasury yields fell for the second consecutive day today, easing those worries. Personal income also grew faster than expected last month.
Back at the top of the leaderboard again today was Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ ) , gaining 3.2% after winning a contract worth as much as $3.5 billion to continue running the Navy's communications network through 2018, beating out several competitors for it. The contract seems to be a perfect example of the kind of business CEO Meg Whitman has chosen to focus on in her turnaround strategy in order to drive profit growth amid a declining PC market. HP was again reminded of the deterioration of its core market as a report showed total PC shipments dropped 12% year over year in the first quarter this year, worse than initial predictions.
Boeing (NYSE: BA ) was also a big gainer for the second day in a row, moving up 2.4% after its joint venture with Lockheed Martin won a $1.1 billion contract from the Defense Department. The contract is the latest win for the aerospace giant, which seems to be locking up new business nearly every day, as the stock has bounced back strongly since the 787 battery-fire scare.
Finally, outside the Dow, Nike (NYSE: NKE ) shares lost over 2% after hours today after the sneaker king posted strong profit growth, but gave cooler guidance for its current quarter. The consumer-goods giant is often seen as a bellwether for consumer spending, especially in North America and Asia, as it takes orders for deliveries over the next six months. The category it calls "future orders" grew 8% from a year ago. Sales were flat in Western Europe and China last quarter, but up 12% in its home region, while earnings per share grew to $0.76, up from $0.60 a year ago, and $0.02 ahead of the analyst consensus. Still, investors were disappointed with revenue guidance for the current quarter at mid-to-high single digits and flat gross margin projection.
The retail space is in the midst of the biggest paradigm shift since mail order took off at the turn of last century. Only those most forward-looking and capable companies will survive, and they'll handsomely reward those investors who understand the landscape. You can read about the 3 Companies Ready to Rule Retail in The Motley Fool's special report. Uncovering these top picks is free today; just click here to read more.