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.
Lower-than-expected jobless claims and the green-lighting of President Obama's next pick to head the Federal Reserve spelled for a jubilant mood in the stock market today. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI ) even closed above the psychologically important 16,000 level for the first time ever, adding 109 points, or 0.7%, to end at 16,009. Jobless claims, which are released weekly, fell from 344,000 to 323,000 -- a far cry from the 335,000 analysts had braced for.
The fact that Janet Yellen -- a veteran central banker with a "dovish," or "inclined to keep printing money" philosophy -- is expected to be voted into power after Thanksgiving also gave Wall Street something to be thankful for. The Fed's dogged efforts to get the economy back on its feet with relentless injections of capital have ironically made the economy largely dependent on the Fed. Sooner or later, however, the baby must be taken away from its bottle, and I pray that I'm nowhere near the baby when that happens.
Global entertainment giant Walt Disney (NYSE: DIS ) also contributed to the Dow's record-setting day, adding 1% to join 20 other blue-chip stocks posting gains today. Walt Disney is a superbly run company with some of the most recognizable and lucrative assets in the world, not least of which is the Disney brand itself, which boasts the company's namesake theme parks, includes its own TV station, and generates drool-worthy recurring revenue from licensing its many entertainment assets. Marvel, Pixar, the Star Wars franchise, ESPN -- these are only a few starters in Disney's All-Star lineup. It should continue to be a powerhouse for years to come.
Aeropostale (NYSE: ARO ) , a teen clothing retailer also largely reliant on its brand, saw shares jump 5.6%. But Aeropostale is no Disney; in fact, Disney is about 150 times larger than Aeropostale, predates Aeropostale by more than half a century, and boasts the aforementioned Dream Team of timeless entertainment assets. Aeropostale has only its 26-year-old brand, a brand that's frankly not been turning any heads recently. But Wall Street's a funny thing, and sometimes a company's performance isn't as important as who owns the company. Shares, for instance, have rocketed more than 15% in the last five days as a private investment firm disclosed a 6% ownership in the company yesterday and another major shareholder proposed that Aeropostale go private today.
Despite a largely bullish day in the markets, there were also some bear spottings. Department store operator Sears Holdings (NASDAQ: SHLD ) slumped 2.9%, for example. Sears, which also owns K-Mart, is dealing with the double-edged sword that is the holiday season. While the holiday quarter is a retailer's bread-and-butter, competition can become fierce, and this year Sears' competition has gone so far as to redefine how consumers think of the holidays. The day after Thanksgiving, or "Black Friday," is primarily celebrated by a horde of consumers, helplessly swayed by the promotional budget of retailers everywhere -- a budget that could fund a smaller country for years or even decades. Now Wal-Mart is moving the implementation of Black Friday deals, a holiday it helped to create, to tomorrow. The unspoken rules of retail -- and the holiday prospects of K-Mart -- are crashing before our eyes.
Who, pray tell, can bring Wal-Mart to its knees?
Not one but two companies actually pose a very real threat to Wal-Mart's dominance as we've come to know it. To learn about two retailers with especially good prospects, take a look at The Motley Fool's special free report: "The Death of Wal-Mart: The Real Cash Kings Changing the Face of Retail." In it, you'll see how these two cash kings are able to consistently outperform and how they're planning to ride the waves of retail's changing tide. You can access it by clicking here.