Strong Housing and Employment Data Not Enough to Get Markets Over the "No Taper" Hangover

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.

Even though investors received two positive economic reports today, stocks, as a whole, still lost ground. The first report was the jobless claims number, which hit 309,000, after falling to 294,000 two weeks ago with help from a computer glitch that also affected the latest results. California and Nevada updated software a few weeks back, which caused the two states to miss report claims two weeks ago, and created a backlog for workers. This is not expected to be fully worked through for another few reporting periods. So, while the two most recent numbers look good, they may be artificially low.

The other report was the better-than-expected housing data from the National Association of Realtors indicating that the adjusted annual rate of existing home sales rose to 5.48 million in August, which represented a 1.7% increase from July. Economists were expecting the seasonally adjusted rate to hit 5.25 million after July experienced a sales increase of 6.5%. Many felt that the recent uptick in sales was due to rising interest rates, and buyers rushing into the market before rates increase anymore. 

After yesterday's rally following the "No Taper" announcement from the Federal Reserve, a decent jobless claims number, and a strong existing homes sales report, weren't enough to move all of the major indexes higher today. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) closed the day down 40 points, or 0.26%, and now sits at 15,636 after setting a new record high yesterday, at 15,676. The S&P 500 lost 0.18%, as the Nasdaq bucked the trend, rising 0.15%.

A few Dow winners
Shares of Travelers (NYSE: TRV  ) insurance rose 1.15% today, making it one of only eight winners found within the Dow today. The cause for the move was an upgrade by FBR Capital, from the previous market perform, to an outperform rating. Additionally, the firm's price target now sits at $94, which represents an 8.1% increase from today's closing price.

FBR stated that it feels the stock still has some room to grow, even thought it has risen 21% year to date, based on sector expectations. Because this has been a very slow year in terms of natural disasters (i.e. no hurricanes on the east coast), Travelers and the other insurers haven't had to make any massive payouts. This has, and will, likely continue to help their balance sheets and profits in the coming quarters, which should cause investors to bid the stock prices up higher. 

The home-improvement giant Home Depot (NYSE: HD  ) saw its shares rise 1.47% today. One reason for the move was the positive housing data released by the National Association of Realtors this morning. But, the bulk of the move upward, I believe, came as a result of the company announcing that it would no longer offer medical coverage for about 20,000 part-time workers. Employees who work less than 30 hours a week will no longer have access to limited liability medical coverage through Home Depot; they will now be directed to go through the ObamaCare exchanges, which are scheduled to open for business starting October 1.

The exchanges were intended to offer affordable care to those who are uninsured because they are self-employed, or work for a small business that can't afford to offer coverage. But, in recent weeks, a number of other businesses, including United Parcel Service, Trader Joe's, and Walgreen, have announced that they will no longer cover part-time workers, forcing them to move to the exchanges, which is likely a way for the businesses to cut their own costs. In addition, IBM and Time Warner will move retirees to exchanges. 

Despite announcing that it will close a plant in California in 2015, which will result in the loss of around 3,000 jobs, shares of Boeing (NYSE: BA  ) moved higher by 0.54% this afternoon. The move higher was likely caused by the report released by Sterne Agee reaffirming its buy rating on the stock, but, more importantly, it ratcheted up its price target from $120, to $164, more than a 37% premium on the price of today's shares at the close. My colleague Daniel Miller noted earlier today that Boeing has a backlog of $410 billion, or 4.5 times, 2013 revenue estimates, pushing its price-to-earnings ratio to 21.77. The stock is up almost 60% since the start of 2013, during which time, the company was dealing with a number of issues with its 787 Dreamliner.

I still have some concerns about the stock. The market has been able to forgive the company and look past the 787 problems thus far, but if the problems continue, or a plane catches fire in the air, not the tarmac, orders could be pulled, and the stock price could take a big hit. Investors need to be careful when looking at a backlog of orders, and not assume all of the stated amounts will turn into revenue. While I am bullish on Boeing, I usually don't get all that excited when I see an analyst making a price target change, as was the case today. 

Another Foolish perspective

With the American markets reaching new highs, investors and pundits alike are skeptical about future growth. But some believe they shouldn't be. As many global regions are still stuck in neutral, their resurgence could result in windfall of profits for select companies. A recent Motley Fool report, "3 Strong Buys for a Global Economic Recovery," outlines three companies that could take off when the global economy gains steam. Click here today to read the full report!


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