Dow Inches Higher as Retailers Jump on Earnings Hopes

On a low-volume Veterans Day holiday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) inched higher, hitting another record as it gained 21 points, or 0.14%, to finish at 15,783. With no economic reports released today, the market continued to react to last week's strong jobs report, and scuttlebutt about the coming Fed taper crept back into the news. Confirmation hearings for Fed Vice Chair Janet Yellen, President Obama's nominee to be the next chairperson of the central bank, will begin Thursday, which should put additional attention on monetary policy. Known for her dovish views, Yellen's will likely continue the quantitative easing seen under Bernanke until unemployment returns to normal levels.

Turning to individual stocks, Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT  ) shares crept up 1.4% with earnings on deck for Thursday as investors may be getting optimistic about retailer earnings after the recent bullish economic data. Macy's, which reports earnings on Wednesday, saw its shares improve 1.9%. Rival Amazon.com (NASDAQ: AMZN  ) was making waves today, announcing plans for Sunday delivery through the U.S. Postal Service. The online retail giant said Sunday delivery began yesterday for customers in the New York and Los Angeles areas and will expand to several other major metro areas next year. Financial details of the deal were not disclosed, but Sunday delivery should give Amazon customers yet another added benefit, putting additional pressure on brick-and-mortar retailers like Wal-Mart and Macy's. The deal should also give the post office some much-needed cash flow.

Elsewhere, J.C. Penney (NYSE: JCP  ) finished 4% higher after the company said same-store sales rose 0.9% in October from a year ago and up 4.9% sequentially. The ailing retailer also said sales on jcp.com jumped 37.6% last month, making up for a staggering drop last year under ousted former CEO Ron Johnson. While the numbers are not enough to indicate that the company's turnaround strategy will pay off, they do seem to show that sales have finally hit rock bottom. Still, losses should continue to pile up for the next several quarters as analysts expect a loss of $1.77 a share when the company reports quarterly earnings next Wednesday. With $5 billion of debt on its balance sheet as well, J.C. Penney still looks like a dark horse at this point.

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