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, we saw all the signs of market nervousness that you'd expect from investors who can't get a grip on what the future is likely to bring. Gold prices rise, bond prices fell sharply as yields once again rose to two-year highs, and the U.S. dollar strengthened slightly -- all while stock prices remained under pressure. The Dow Jones Industrials (DJINDICES: ^DJI ) finished its terrible week with a 30-point drop on Friday, bringing its total losses for the week to more than 2%.
When the markets are falling due to general anxiety, though, it's eye-opening to see which stocks manage to defy the trend and rise. Today, the honor of the top winner in the Dow went to Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ ) , which climbed almost 2%. The stock seemed to take schadenfreude-like comfort from rival Dell's (UNKNOWN: DELL.DL ) poor quarterly results last night, with Dell's net income falling more than 70%. Yet, given how weak pricing power helped seal Dell's earnings fate, today's rise strongly suggests that HP investors are counting on the company moving away from the PC business to avoid getting involved in a price war that might well have no winners at all.
Boeing (NYSE: BA ) flew higher by about 0.7% as the company got good news on its most recent Dreamliner-related issue. United Technologies-unit Kidde Aerospace said that it supplied improperly assembled fire-extinguishing systems for Boeing's 787 Dreamliners, with the defects having surfaced on several aircraft bought by the Japanese airline All Nippon. The news gives Boeing much-needed respite from full responsibility for problems that have plagued the Dreamliner, once again showing though that dips due to new controversies have typically become buying opportunities.
Finally, Bank of America (NYSE: BAC ) rose 0.7%, as the bank finally moved to pull its Merrill Lynch subsidiary under the umbrella of the parent company. By doing so, Merrill will avoid having to file its own separate regulatory disclosures, instead being able to file on a consolidated basis with B of A's larger operations. The Merrill brand will continue to exist unchanged, but the hope among investors is that the move will help B of A cut costs and avoid regulatory stress at what has increasingly become a challenging time for the banking industry.
Even after today's gains, B of A still looks cheap on a valuation basis. But to make sure you don't make a big mistake, it's critical to understand what makes the best banks tick. The Motley Fool's new report "Finding the Next Bank Stock Home Run" demystifies the perils of investing in banks and reveals how savvy investors can win. It's completely free -- click here to get started.