Hertz Ends Year on a Tear; Dow Finishes 2013 at Record Highs

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.

The stock market ended the year in appropriate fashion today, finishing on a bullish note as the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) closed out 2013 with yet another all-time high. Tuesday's advance, which puts an exclamation point on the so-called end-of-year "Santa Claus Rally," was fueled on by gains in the U.S. Consumer Confidence Index. Consumers graded current economic conditions at nearly six-year highs in December, as the labor market slowly improves and the unemployment rate flirts with sub-7% levels. The Dow bid adieu to 2013 with a 72-point, or 0.4%, gain, ending at 16,576. The 26.5% surge in blue chips this year marked the index's best performance in nearly two decades. 

While Home Depot (NYSE: HD  ) stock probably won't be fodder for tipsy conversation at cocktail parties tonight, its 33% gains this year are nothing to scoff at. The same can also be said for today's 0.5% uptick, which followed the release of another bullish economic metric, the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index. Though Home Depot shareholders don't want housing to become prohibitively expensive, October's 13.6% year-over-year price gains reflect a nice recovery in real estate that should only continue to benefit the do-it-yourself home-improvement retailer. 

Rental car company Hertz Global Holdings (NYSE: HTZ  ) gave investors a free ride Tuesday, as the stock surged 10.5% after deciding to invoke a measure aimed at preventing activist investors from snapping up large portions of the company. The shareholder rights plan, also known as a "poison pill," effectively prevents ambitious investors from acquiring overly large stakes in Hertz by flooding the market with new shares when an outside entity builds a 10% interest in the company. The plan is in the name of a fiduciary duty to its current stockholders, who obviously thought the "pill" was in good taste. 

Lastly, shares of bulk shipper/deepwater driller DryShips (NASDAQ: DRYS  ) rallied 7.3% today, finishing what's been a remarkable 2013 on a similarly stellar note. Stock in the Athens-based company nearly tripled this year, as bulk shipping rates in the Mediterranean soared and the business' Ocean Rig subsidiary reaped rewards. My colleague James Catlin argues that DryShips is uniquely poised to take advantage of recovering shipping rates in 2014 because of its spot-rate contract pricing strategy -- though I'll add that investors should be wary of the high debt load when navigating these waters.

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