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Many companies across America are moving slowly today in the wake of the holiday, but stocks aren't letting up on their recent advance. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) has gained 118 points as of 2:37 p.m. EST. ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM) is up more than 1.7% to lead the blue-chip index higher. On the other side of the index, however, Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) is having a hard time getting anything going. Let's catch up on what you need to know.
Jobless claims back on track
The economy received another bright sign of hope to start the day, as U.S. initial jobless claims for last week fell sharply. Weekly jobless claims dropped 42,000 to 338,000, according to today's report, a dip that beat economist predictions and also marked the biggest weekly drop in more than a year. Granted, jobless claims had spiked in the previous two weeks before this latest drop, but the economy doesn't look to be backtracking on the progress it's made in 2013.
ExxonMobil hasn't made much news today, but this Big Oil stock has still climbed to the top of the Dow with a big day. Exxon's total company revenue has fallen more than 8% year over year through the first nine months of 2013. However, don't just blame Exxon: The dip has followed a slowdown among its rivals, with fellow Dow oil giant Chevron (NYSE:CVX) also seeing revenue decline by around 5% year over year through the same time period.
The dip's taken a toll on both Exxon and Chevron's earnings per share through the year and on their stocks -- both Chevron and Exxon rank among the bottom 10 Dow Jones components in year-to-date performance, with shares gaining less than 20% in that period. However, as fellow analyst Bob Cura notes, the increasing drive for natural gas in the U.S. could boost the fortunes of both companies in 2014. Exxon's reporting higher natural gas demand, while Chevron looks to increase its natural gas production dramatically over the coming decade.
Johnson & Johnson stock has picked up roughly up roughly 0.3% so far today. Still, there's good news for J&J investors, as rumors have circulated that the company is in talks with the Carlyle Group (NASDAQ:CG) about selling off its blood-testing diagnostics unit. Johnson & Johnson originally hoped for up to $5 billion for its diagnostics division, but while the deal with Carlyle isn't sealed yet it's not a bad starting point for discussion for the company or its investors. Some have called for J&J to begin spinning off or selling its peripheral businesses like Big Pharma rivals such as Pfizer have in the past, so keep an eye on Johnson & Johnson for more potential deals.
Fool contributor Dan Carroll has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Chevron and Johnson & Johnson. The Motley Fool owns shares of Johnson & Johnson. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not 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.