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Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over daily movements, we do like to keep an eye on market changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.
Today, investors received what many would consider great news about the health of the U.S. economy: According to the weekly jobs report, jobless claims dropped to their lowest level since October 2007. The Department of Labor reported that last week's jobless claims fell to 320,000, while economists expected the number to hit 335,000. The decline this past week also lowered the four-month moving average to 332,000, which was 4,000 lower than the reading the previous week.
But a quick look at how the major indexes closed for the day -- the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI ) down by 225 points, or 1.47%, the S&P 500 (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC ) 24 points, or 1.43%, and the Nasdaq 63 points, or 1.72% -- shows that the jobs report didn't make most investors happy.
One reason investors sold off the market today is because the report does indicate that the U.S. economy is growing stronger and that means that the Federal Reserve may not need to continue stimulating the recovery with its $85 billion-a-month bond-buying program. That means bond yields will soon rise higher, pushing interest rates up and possible stalling the recovery in the process.
A few winners on a down day
The only Dow component to move higher today was Caterpillar (NYSE: CAT ) , which gained a whopping 0.05%. One reason could have been the increase in the prices of precious metals. Gold jumped more than 2% while silver rose 5.27% and platinum increased by 1.8%. Economies in areas around the world that mine these metals are heavily tied to the price of the commodity. As the price increases, the miners themselves and other supporting businesses within those countries will be more willing to spend money on the machinery needed to dig up the gold and build the infrastructure to support the mining communities. Thus, Caterpillar comes into play.
Alcoa (NYSE: AA ) , on the other hand, closed flat. On a normal day, that wouldn't be a big deal, but when 28 out of the 30 Dow components were in the red, it's something worth noting. Year to date, shares of Alcoa are down 5.99% as the Dow itself is still up 15.32% after today's move. The company has struggled to stay afloat as the price of aluminum has tanked over the past few years and just yesterday Alcoa announced that it would temporarily reduce output at a plant in Brazil and permanently close one of its operations Massena, N.Y. Today's share price stagnation may be a sign that investors like the decision by Alcoa to lower production when aluminum prices are low.
Outside the Dow, one surprising big winner today was J.C. Penney's (NYSE: JCP ) , which rose 5.49%. The move came after a number of bullish news stories hit the markets. First was last night's New York Post article that said same-store sales at the retailer are positive for the month. Then this morning, news broke that George Soros increased his stake in the company during the second quarter. Finally, research firm Sterne Agee reiterated its bullish stance and its $23-per-share price target. My colleague Sean Williams warned investors earlier today that he felt the risk-reward ratio still wasn't good enough to open a position, and I would have to agree with him. With all the issues with the company's board, CEO turnover, and the flip-flopping with discounting merchandise, investors are better off staying on the sidelines.
To me, what it really comes down to is that there are way too many other opportunities out there right now with as much, if not more upside, potential as J.C. Penney, with much less risk.
The retail space is in the midst of the biggest paradigm shift since mail order took off at the turn of the 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.