Hewlett-Packard Stock Surges as the Dow Drops

Following some mixed economic reports, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) is flat as of 1:15 p.m. EDT, while the S&P 500 (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC  ) is down about a point to 1,706. Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ  ) is surging today, up nearly 4%.

There were three U.S. economic releases today.

Report

Period

Result

Previous

Nonfarm payrolls

July

162,000

188,000

Unemployment rate

July

7.4%

7.6%

Personal income

June

0.3%

0.4%

Consumer spending

June

0.5%

0.2%

PCE price index

June

0.4%

0.1%

Core PCE price index

June

0.2%

0.1%

Factory orders

June

1.5%

3%

The two to pay attention to are the employment report and the personal-consumption expenditures price index. The government revised jobs growth for May and June downward, now saying the economy added 26,000 fewer jobs over those two months than previously estimated. Nonfarm payrolls grew by just 162,000 in July, falling short of June's 188,000-job growth and analyst expectations of 180,000.

US Change in Nonfarm Payrolls Chart

US Change in Nonfarm Payrolls data by YCharts.

The lackluster growth was still enough to bring the unemployment rate down to a five-year low of 7.4%.

US Unemployment Rate Chart

US Unemployment Rate data by YCharts.

The drop stemmed from jobs growth and a drop in the participation rate, which measures the number of workers employed or looking for jobs. This brings the economy closer to the Fed's target of 6.5% unemployment. The Fed has said it could begin tapering asset purchases as soon as unemployment falls to 7%.

The other metrics the Federal Reserve is watching are current inflation and forecast inflation. While inflation expectations have risen slightly to 2.25%, inflation as measured by the Personal Consumption Expenditure price index, the Federal Reserve's favored measure, remains low.

US PCE Inflation Rate Chart

US PCE Inflation Rate data by YCharts.

Today's report showed that the PCE price index rose 0.4% in June, while the Core PCE price index rose 0.2%. Year over year, the PCE price index is up just 1%, indicating that inflation is slow and well below the Fed's target of 2%.

Today's Dow leader is Hewlett-Packard, up 3.%. The stock hit an intraday 52-week high today of $27.78. It's unclear why the stock is surging; speculation ranges from investors dumping Dell in favor of HP to an activist investor taking a stake. The stock has been on a tear, up 92% since the start of the year as Meg Whitman's turnaround slowly takes effect. While the stock has certainly turned around, it remains to be seen whether the business will do the same.

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