Dow Holds Steady After Fed News; Nike Reports, Target in Trouble

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.

A day after the taper heard round the world, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) turned in a middling performance, finishing up 11 points, or 0.07%, while the S&P 500 edged down by a similar amount. Still, the lack of movement can be viewed as a positive, as some may have expected a sell-off after yesterday's surprise announcement that the Federal Reserve would trip its $85 billion monthly bond-buying program to $75 billion. Two straight months off 200,000-plus job growth have clearly convinced the central bankers that the economy is inexorably headed toward full employment.

Investors ignored reports, including existing home sales falling to their lowest level in a year, declining 4.3% last month, and new jobless claims hitting a nine-month high last week at 379,000. While the data may stir concerns that the recent economic recovery is perhaps not as strong as the Fed believes, the overall economic data in recent weeks has been overwhelmingly positive.

In news on individual stocks, Nike (NYSE: NKE  ) pulled off another strong quarter, reporting earnings after hours today. Profit jumped 40%, and the home of the Swoosh beat earnings by $0.01 with a per-share profit at $0.59, as revenue improved 8%, to $6.43 billion, in line with expectations. Orders for future products were especially strong, climbing 13% against analyst projections of 10% and a 7% increase in orders last year. Gross margin also improved significantly, up 140 basis points, to 43.9%. Nike's worldwide brand and innovative products, such as the Fuel Band, seem to keep delivering market-beating returns; however, at a P/E of 26, it may be time for the stock to take a breather even if the company continues to make big strides. Shares were down 1% in extended trading.

After reporting a weak third quarter and warning about holiday sales, Target (NYSE: TGT  ) was the bearer of more bad news today, saying that a security breach had allowed the personal information of 40 million customers, including credit card numbers, to escape into the public domain. It's the second-biggest breach of this type ever, as a similar one in 2005 affected 45.7 million TJ Maxx customers. The exposure affects consumers who paid with a card between November 27 and December 15 in stores. While this is a one-off incident, it certainly hurts Target's level of trust with their customers, and is a black eye for the company at a time when it's trying to make its first international expansion into Canada, which has not been going as well as hoped. Shares closed down 2.2%.

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