Dow Gains Again as Exxon Jumps on Buffett Endorsement

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.

Stocks continued their gravity-defying rise today as the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) brushed off some underwhelming economic reports today to finish up 85 points, or 0.5%, at 15,962. Yesterday's positive reaction to Fed chair nominee Janet Yellen's hearing seemed to carry the market higher for the second day in a row as investors applauded Yellen's vigorous defense of Federal Reserve's action to stimulate the economy under current Chair Ben Bernanke. The market has clearly been partial to the $85 billion monthly bond-buying program as it has arguably been the main factor in driving stocks up 25% this year. While Yellen conceded that the program has to end eventually, she seems to believe that it should continue until unemployment returns to normal levels.

The bullish sentiment helped the market ignore lower-than-expected figures from a New York state manufacturing report and a decline in export prices and industrial production in October.

ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM  ) led the Dow, finishing up 2.2% after Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK-B  ) disclosed a new $3.45 billion stake in the energy giant. As a cheap, blue-chip stock with steady cash flows and a dividend payout, Exxon is a typical Buffett favorite, but the oil majors have seen declining production as easy oil gets harder to find. Declining consumption in the U.S. could also present problems for the industry going forward.

In more fund news, J.C. Penney (NYSE: JCP  ) shares finished up 4% as a number of hedge funds took positions in the ailing retailer in the last six weeks, including Highfields Capital, Farallon Capital Management Group, and Jana Partners. In total, the funds bought 8.1 million shares of J.C. Penney, or about $65 million, depending on the time of his investment. Other funds dumped shares of Penney, but the rush in seemed to add to investor confidence, especially after the department store chain reported slightly positive same-store sales for October. We'll learn more about Penney's prospects for a turnaround when it reports earnings next Wednesday. Analysts expect a per-share loss of $1.72. For the first time in more than a year, analyst projections seem low enough that Penney could actually beat them. A sequential improvement over Q2's $2.20 loss would, at the very least, show some improvement.

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