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Stocks continued their half-stepping ways today as the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI ) overcame a down opening to finish up 13 points, or 0.1%. Facebook shares stole headlines, jumping 30% after crushing sales estimates, pushing the Nasdaq up 0.8% as a result.
In the day's economic data, the initial unemployment claims report showed 343,000 new jobless filings last week, slightly ahead of estimates at 340,000. On the other hand, durable goods orders jumped 4.2% in June, well ahead of projections at 1.8%, but excluding the volatile transportation sector, growth was flat from the previous month. Commercial aircraft orders helped send the overall figure up, jumping 31.4%.
Only one Dow stock reported earnings today, 3M (NYSE: MMM ) , which finished up 0.2%. The maker of everything from office products to health-care supplies posted earnings per share of $1.71, slightly up from $1.66 a year ago, and better than the analyst estimates by $0.01. Revenue increased 2.9%, to $7.75 billion, just shy of the experts' mark at $7.77 billion. CEO Inge Thule cited "challenging conditions" in the first half of the year, but said the company performed well, adding that he expected demand to improve in the second half of the year.
Elsewhere on the Dow, Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT ) was the blue chips' biggest loser, finishing down 1.8%. There was no major impetus for the Windows-maker's stumble, but part of the reason may be Facebook's market-thumping report, which made other tech stocks pale by comparison. Microsoft may not be thought of as a Facebook competitor, but it has made a large investment in Bing in recent years, targeting the same ad dollars as Facebook, and seems to be in the middle of a soul-searching phase after its own disastrous report last week. Likewise, Google finished down 1.7%.
Home Depot (NYSE: HD ) also finished down 1.6% on similar logic. Two of the nation's largest homebuilders, PulteGroup and DR Horton, bombed in their own earnings releases today, finishing down 10% and 9%, respectively. The market seems to have interpreted the reports as a sign of overenthusiasm for the housing recovery as it may not be as strong as previously thought. There is also concern that climbing mortgage rates could cool off home buying. Pulte, for one, saw a 12% drop in new orders this quarter.
Facebook's huge quarter may indicate a monumental shift has begun in the dynamics of the tech industry. That's good news for some, and bad news for others. Find out "Who Will Win the War Between the 5 Biggest Tech Stocks?" in The Motley Fool's latest free report, which details the knock-down, drag-out battle being waged by the five kings of tech. Click here to keep reading.