Why HP Led the Dow Higher Today

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.

After a miserable performance yesterday, the stock market managed to regain some ground despite worrisome economic news from the housing front and the ever-lingering threat of escalating tensions in the Middle East. By the close, the Dow Jones Industrials (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) were well off their highs of the session but still managed to post a gain of 48 points. Broader markets posted similar-percentage gains in the quarter-percent to half-percent range even as bond yields rose once again.

As markets wait for resolution on key long-term issues such as the Fed's monetary policy and the current impasse on the U.S. federal debt ceiling, investors instead turned to sector-specific and individual-stock stories. The biggest gainer on the day was Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ  ) , which picked up almost 3%. Initiatives to broaden its business presence have led to wins like the company's contract earlier this week with Cerner to provide HP's data-analytics software to help the health-care information company deliver critical information to its medical-provider customers. Moreover, the gains came despite news that HP's share of the worldwide server market fell by more than 3.5 percentage points.

Elsewhere in the Dow, energy stocks were big winners, with Chevron and ExxonMobil both gaining more than 2%. But some energy companies fared even better. For instance, Marathon Oil (NYSE: MRO  ) jumped by more than 3.5%, as investors celebrating the rise in oil prices stemming from Syrian tensions. As Fool energy analyst Taylor Muckerman noted earlier today, Marathon is poised to benefit more than Exxon, Chevron, and BP (NYSE: BP  ) , because Marathon has access to both Brent crude as well as cheaper West Texas Intermediate while not having to deal with the integrated operations of its larger rivals.

Finally, outside the Dow, jeweler Zale (UNKNOWN: ZLC.DL  ) soared almost 30% after an unexpectedly strong earnings report. The jewelry company managed to become profitable on a full-year basis for the first time in five years, demonstrating its survival skills after getting crushed during the recession and financial crisis. Luxury retail has shown some signs of faltering lately, but Zale's results show that at least when it comes to mainstream-consumer jewelry, the economy is looking brighter.

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