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.
Coming off three straight down weeks, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI) continued its dismal August, dropping 64 points, or 0.4%, today. The blue chips were actually up most of today's session, but they turned negative following a speech by Secretary of State John Kerry, who said the Syrian government's use of chemical weapons against its own people was "undeniable" and that the Obama administration would hold it accountable.
Kerry's statement seemed to increase the likelihood of military conflict in Syria and could send oil prices up as supplies may be affected by a potential intervention. Earlier in the day, a report showed that July durable-goods orders dropped off 7.3%, worse than expectations of a 5% decline. While that would ordinarily be bad news, the market seemed to interpret it as an argument that the Federal Reserve should delay its stimulus taper, which some analysts fear could come as soon as September. Factoring out the volatile transportation sectors, orders for long-lasting items fell 0.6% against expectations of a gain of 0.6%.
Home Depot (NYSE: HD) bucked the overall trend today, finishing up 2.1%. There was no company-specific news out on the home-improvement retailer, but investors seemed to spot a buying opportunity, as the stock had fallen 7.5% in the past two weeks despite a blowout earnings report last week. Still, with new home sales tumbling and interest rates rising, the blazing growth we've seen in the housing market could be coming to an end.
Meanwhile, Procter & Gamble (NYSE: PG) was the index's worst performer, falling 1.8% as investors reacted to reports that reinstated CEO A.G. Lafley won't be moving to headquarters in Cincinnati and will instead remain in Florida, where he had originally retired. Lafley was brought back after retiring a few years ago at the behest of activist investors, including Bill Ackman, to replace Bob McDonald, who retired after posting middling results during his four-year tenure. The decision by Lafley, who is 66, indicates that he probably won't stay in the leadership role for more than a few years.
Finally, Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) shares were down 1.7% following last Friday's 7% jump on news that CEO Steve Ballmer will retire. Today's drop seems to simply be a natural reaction to the last session's exaggerated bounce. While investors may be happy to see Ballmer go, his departure doesn't necessarily do anything positive for Microsoft. It simply leaves a question mark in the executive's chair, as the aging company needs to find a way to make up for lost ground in areas such as mobile and cloud computing.
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