Aeropostale, priceline.com Stand Out as Dow Slumps

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.

Corporate America's health, as measured by the stock market, is always a function of expectations. Future earnings and cash flows are ruthlessly examined by Wall Street in a never-ending effort to determine the best place to park investments. Today's market, perhaps more than ever, sees the actions of the Federal Reserve as an integral part of corporate prosperity. So when Federal Reserve minutes from the central bank's October meeting showed a willingness to begin tapering asset purchases in the near future, stocks swiftly swung to negative territory. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) , which briefly traded above 16,000 today, closed down 66 points, or 0.4%, ending at 15,900. 

Home Depot (NYSE: HD  ) , fresh off an impressive third quarter that saw the company top earnings and revenue expectations, lost 0.8% Wednesday. Investors are trying to rectify the third-quarter beat with the hot-off-the-presses Fed minutes. One clear implication, should the Fed reduce its $85 billion monthly asset purchases, would be modestly higher interest rates. This would temper the amount of loan demand and could cause the real estate market to cool down -- and cooling down is about the last thing Home Depot investors want real estate to do. Remodel! Invest! Gut your house and put it back together again! That's what Home Depot investors want.

Aeropostale (NYSE: ARO  ) shareholders, on the other hand, probably want to forget about 2013 altogether. That said, they weren't too concerned with the undertones of the Fed minutes today -- in fact, the stock soared 5.6%. So why the jump? Did the company set a new sales record? Project blowout earnings? Improve margins? Unfortunately, Aeropostale did none of these things. Today's bump came after private investment group Hirzel Capital disclosed a sizable new stake in the teen retailer. When activist investors disclose they have skin in the game, Wall Street investors often cheer the news in the expectation of a timely turnaround. Personally, I'm wary of this rationale and would prefer to see more robust results before banking on a rebound. The old Wall Street adage "don't try to catch a falling knife" is especially relevant here.

Finally, shares of priceline.com (NASDAQ: PCLN  ) , an elite member of the $1,000-per-share club, added 2.6% Wednesday. Stock in the online travel agency was added to Goldman Sachs' prestigious "conviction buy" list on the heels of three straight quarters of improving metrics relative to rival Expedia. The great thing about the travel industry for investors is its natural segue into international markets as avenues for growth. Goldman also touts Priceline's prospects here, citing Europe's recovery as a catalyst it expects will send the stock even higher. Priceline is a great company in a period of remarkable growth, but investors should be wary of jumping into this stock or that one on the bullish opinions of a Goldman analyst.

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