U.S. stock markets were in a slow and steady decline this week despite reasonably good economic data. The Department of Commerce said retail sales were up 0.7% in November despite a very late Thanksgiving holiday. That points to continued strength from consumers, which is great because consumers account for 70% of the U.S. economy. But traders were likely distracted by worries about tapering and the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) fell 1.65% for the week.
The Dow's top stock this week was Visa (NYSE:V), which was up 2.7%. The stock got a boost Thursday, when competitor MasterCard announced a $3.5 billion buyback program, increased its dividend 83%, and announced a 10-for-1 stock split. Friday also brought good news when a federal judge approved a $5.7 billion settlement with merchants.
Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) was the second best stock on the Dow with a measly 0.7% gain this week. When you consider that a tougher-than-hoped-for Volcker rule, intended to keep banks from making high-risk bets with their own money, passed this week, the fact that the stock is up is impressive. The Volcker rule was supposed to be a key win for regulators, but there are already holes emerging, such as the ability to do proprietary trading of equities in foreign countries. At the end of the day, I don't think the new regulations will hurt Goldman Sachs all that much, and that's a win for the big banks, until the next financial crisis.
Rounding out the Dow's top stocks is Caterpillar (NYSE:CAT), which was up 0.6%. There wasn't any breaking news out about the company, but management did decide to maintain its quarterly dividend at $0.60 per share. Amazingly, Caterpillar has increased its dividend for the last 20 years and made payments to shareholders every year since 1933.
Fool contributor Travis Hoium has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Goldman Sachs and Visa and owns shares of Visa. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.