Dow Futures Dive on Syria Worries

Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over market movements, we do like to keep an eye on big changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.

The August stock market rut looks set to continue today. Stock futures as of 7:40 a.m EDT indicate that the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) will drop a steep 124 points at the opening bell. World markets dipped amid discussion over potential military action against Syria. Major European markets fell sharply despite a strong reading on German business confidence, which rose to a 16-month high.

Light trading volume could continue to boost volatility in the market today, as it has for much of August. This month is on pace to be the second-slowest trading month in five years, according to Bloomberg.

But J.C. Penney  (NYSE: JCP  ) shares could see a spike in activity after hedge fund manager Bill Ackman decided to close out his entire position in the struggling retailer. The Wall Street Journal reported that Ackman is selling his nearly 18% ownership stake for $12.90 a share, below yesterday's $13.35 closing price. J.C. Penney said last week that sales in its second quarter slid by another 12% as it racked up a $477 million loss, providing a stark reminder that any bet on Penney's turnaround is a risky one. Shares are down 2.6% in premarket trading.

Tiffany (NYSE: TIF  ) shares look set to sparkle today after the luxury retailer reported strong earnings results this morning. Second-quarter sales rose by 4% to $926 million as profit jumped 16% higher to $0.83 a share. Gross margin improved by more than a full percentage point to 57.5% as Tiffany sold more of its "statement" and fine jewelry. The retailer boosted its profit outlook for the full year to about $3.55 a share, which leaves it valued at a rich but still affordable 23 times earnings. Shares are up 1.1% in premarket trading.

Finally, footwear retailer DSW (NYSE: DSW  ) announced earnings results that beat expectations this morning. Comparable-store sales grew by a solid 4.4% as adjusted earnings leapt 47% higher. DSW seems to have rebounded from a tough spring that saw comparable sales fall by 2.4% as customer traffic levels slipped. DSW's focus on value seems to have helped the company reconnect with its customers after a failed experiment with offering more luxury goods. Shares are up about 2% in premarket trading.

As DSW, J.C. Penney, and Tiffany can attest, the retail space is a tough business. Only the most forward-looking and capable competitors will survive, and they'll handsomely reward those investors who understand the landscape. You can read about three other, well-positioned retailers in "3 Companies Ready to Rule Retail," The Motley Fool's special report. Uncovering these top picks is free today; just click here to read more.


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