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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.
For the most part, it was a very quiet day on Wall Street. We didn't see a ton of earnings reports this morning or after the bell, economic news was light, and the major indexes didn't make waves. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI ) closed the session up 24 points, or 0.15%, while the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq ended the day higher by 0.25% and 0.67%.
But despite the limited excitement, a few stocks still produced some fireworks.
Shares of Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL ) rose 2.35% to close at $545.96, their highest level since the first day of trading in 2013. The stock has now risen more than 39% since it closed at this year's low of $390.53 on April 19. But even at today's price, the stock is still trading at only 13.73 times past earnings and 11.45 times future expected earnings. The stock pays a 2.3% dividend and has more than $100 million on the balance sheet. Regardless of whether you believe Apple can strike gold again with another life-changing product everyone must have, you can't deny that the company makes a lot of money and isn't likely to disappear anytime soon. I don't believe owning shares at today's price would be a bad idea.
As for J.C. Penney (NYSE: JCP ) , it would be hard to convince me that the retailer will still be around in a few years. The stock rose a whopping 7.69% today, for reasons unclear. Management believes the company will have a strong holiday shopping season as it returns to its heavy reliance on promotions, so maybe investors are making last-minute bets that Penney's top brass is correct. Today was the last time investors could buy before the markets close for the Thanksgiving holiday, and they don't reopen until 9:30 a.m. ET Friday morning, after the bulk of the crazy Black Friday shopping has already taken place and preliminary sales figures begin rolling in. This stock has been on a tear lately as, rising more than 57% since closing at $6.42 on Oct. 21. Momentum and a rally like this can be dangerous to try to stop, but it can also turn very quickly. Investors beware with this retailer.
Now that both stocks are showing signs of life whereas just a few weeks ago they had been left for dead, is either worth buying? As I mentioned, Apple is trading at a very reasonable price-to-earnings ratio and continues to sell millions of units every quarter, so yes, that stock is still a buy today, even if you don't think Apple has another iPhone-style blockbuster up its sleeve. As for J.C. Penney ... no. It's not just a sell; it's a run-away-from. The company has disenfranchised its customer base and will continue to struggle gaining new shoppers. The retail industry is a killer, and once you show signs of weakness, the competition goes for your heart. The company may survive for a few more seasons, but its Black Fridays are numbered.
A deeper look at retail
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.