In all the volatility that we've seen in the stock market lately, it's easy to forget just how well stocks have performed so far this year. Even accounting for today's 115-point decline today, the Dow Jones Industrials (DJINDICES: ^DJI ) finished the first half of the year with its best performance since 1999, while the S&P 500 hasn't seen a better first-half performance in 15 years. Even with today's weak stock performance, other markets managed to hold their own, with bond yields declining very slightly, and gold prices bouncing back by about $20 per ounce from their recent plunge.
Even with the Dow down triple digits, four stocks managed to post gains today, led by Home Depot (NYSE: HD ) , which rose 1.6%. The impact of rising mortgage rates hasn't taken the wind out of the home-improvement retailer's sails, as investors have seen the company not only survive, but thrive, in difficult housing environments before. Even as most homebuilder stocks declined today, Home Depot's resiliency shows its ability to find ways to boost sales whether people are buying new homes, or fixing up their existing ones.
Tech companies Intel (NASDAQ: INTC ) and Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ ) both ended in the green. For Intel, CEO Brian Krzanich met with reporters to discuss the company's strategic vision, with guidance both on mobile and Internet-based television initiatives. By emphasizing the importance of its Atom processor for smartphones and tablets, Intel is trying to make its mark after finally getting a high-profile place for another of its chips in Samsung's Galaxy Tab line of tablets. How Krzanich does in his opening months leading Intel could define the direction the stock moves for the foreseeable future.
Meanwhile, HP gained after winning a $322 million Defense Department contract yesterday. The contract involves work on integrating the Navy's intranet into the Next Generation Enterprise Network. HP will work alongside several other major partners, with the current one-year contract potentially open to extensions going out as far as 2018. Deals like this aren't a huge part of HP's overall business, but they do reflect well on public perception of the company's ability to get important jobs done.
Finally, ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM ) climbed a third of a percent. On a day when oil prices fell back to the $95 level, it's somewhat surprising to see Exxon buck the trend and move higher. But the key for Exxon's success will be its continuing quest for new assets, and opportunities like Exxon's exploratory zones off the South African coast are essential in helping the company keep production levels high, and revenue up.