Home Depot Stock Shines Again as Dow Dips

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.

A day after the Federal Reserve shocked Wall Street by continuing its $85 billion monthly bond-buying program, stocks backed off from their all-time highs. Not everyone has a long-term investment horizon, after all, and those with a focus on the short term were tempted to take some profits from Wednesday's windfall market gains. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) saw most of its components lose ground, and ended 40 points, or 0.3%, lower, at 15,636. Home Depot (NYSE: HD  ) investors didn't share this philosophy, however, bidding the stock up for a fourth straight day.

The do-it-yourself home improvement retailer tacked on 1.5% Thursday, good enough for tops in the blue chip index. While the Fed's decision not to cut back on its stimulus plan yesterday helped homebuilders and companies like Home Depot -- which rely on a healthy real estate market for growth -- boost shares Wednesday, something else sent shares of Home Depot higher today. The company is cutting its health-care costs by sending its 20,000 part-time employees to public exchanges, which open for business Oct. 1.

Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT  ) shares added 1% as the stock edged higher ahead of a much-anticipated analyst meeting, the last in which Steve Ballmer will be CEO of the company. The company still isn't giving any hints about who its next leader will be, but one thing we do know is that Microsoft will be a new-look company under whoever takes the reigns next. With the addition of Nokia's device segment to Microsoft's portfolio, the pressure will be on for the company to prove itself in mobile. 

While the tech sector was the top performer in the markets Thursday, that didn't stop Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ  ) from shedding 2.2%. HP is another company looking to make an impact in the mobile market and, like Microsoft, it may be a little late on the draw. Still, shareholders are psyched by HP's new line of Atom processors for mobile devices. Just because the company's entering the game late doesn't mean it's too late, a philosophy that HP rival Dell is espousing as it goes private.

Lastly, UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH  ) lost 3% today, losing ground for a third-straight day. Health-care stocks were unpopular Thursday, so it's not exactly shocking that UnitedHealth would underperform, but it is interesting to see where capital markets are allocating their money before Obamacare's state exchanges go live on Oct. 1. Sure, there's a lot of uncertainty surrounding the dynamics of the new system, but that doesn't necessarily equate to bad news for health-care companies.

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