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The second quarter has come and gone, and even a slow June couldn't keep stocks from marching higher this quarter. The economy continues to slowly improve, the Federal Reserve is still printing money, and consumer confidence charges higher despite high unemployment and higher taxes.
This week, the Fed helped markets by sending officials on a PR tour to ease concerns the market had about the Fed stopping stimulus. That helped the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI ) charge 0.75% higher this week and the S&P 500 (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC ) climb 0.87%.
Home Depot (NYSE: HD ) led the Dow by gaining 4.9%. The stock was one of the market's biggest losers last week, after Ben Bernanke hinted at tapering the Fed's stimulus, and interest rates shot higher. So when market concerns eased and interest rates fell this week, the stock marched higher. With mortgage rates so low, the housing market is incredibly sensitive to rate changes, and both the existing-home and new-home markets could tumble quickly had rates continued to rise. But they didn't, and Home Depot's investors stepped off the ledge they were approaching last week.
Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT ) rose 3.8% this week after releasing changes to the Xbox One and to Windows. The company dropped the fees developers used to pay to update games on Xbox Live and also did away with a proposed policy to restrict used games on the Xbox One. Microsoft also unveiled an update to Windows called Blue. The Start button is back, and the company made a number of minor changes to address customer complaints. I don't think this will jump-start PC sales, but it may push a few people from the fence to buy a new computer.
Johnson & Johnson rounds out the top three by gaining 3.2%. There weren't any major catalysts, but when markets become volatile, investors turn to steady stocks like Johnson & Johnson. The company's 3.2% dividend yield is a higher yield than Treasuries offer, and for investors looking for income, the medical business is a safe and growing place to look for value.
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