Morning Dow Report: JPMorgan Lifts Financials While Microsoft Sags

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.

Monday morning opened to modest losses for the Dow Jones Industrials (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) , which were down 25 points as of 11 a.m. EST. Data on the services sector from the Institute for Supply Management's nonmanufacturing index defied expectations for gain, instead falling from 53.9 to an even 53 in December. Yet factory goods orders rose 1.8%, painting a picture of mixed growth prospects. Financials were among the strongest groups on the Dow this morning , with JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM  ) and Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS  ) among the best performers. But Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT  ) held the index back with substantial losses.

On the bullish side of the Dow, Goldman led the way higher with a 1% rise, while JPMorgan Chase followed with an advance of 0.87%. JPMorgan is reportedly near settling yet another multibillion-dollar set of allegations, this time in connection with its part in the Ponzi scheme that Bernie Madoff used to defraud thousands of clients out of tens of billions of dollars. The reported $2 billion settlement is just one of many huge settlements JPMorgan has made in recent years, but investors continue to applaud each one as the bank tries to put the financial crisis behind it once and for all.

Meanwhile, news of continued cooperation between regulators and fellow Wall Street investment banks is positive for Goldman's future success. Goldman has soared close to its highest levels from before the financial crisis as the favorable stock market environment delivered a rush of initial public offerings and other work for the financial giant. Goldman appears poised to take maximum advantage of the bull market for as long as it continues, and investors are starting to realize the potential that the bank and other financial stocks have given their relatively low valuations.

On the other hand, Microsoft fell 1.8%. A Wall Street Journal article over the weekend offered thoughts on why the tech giant hasn't yet named a replacement for outgoing CEO Steve Ballmer, citing "awkward boardroom dynamics" between Chairman Bill Gates and activist investor ValueAct Capital as possibly contributing to candidates' reluctance to jump on the opportunity. With so many issues to deal with, Microsoft will be a challenge for any new CEO, but it's also an amazing chance to reap a huge success for someone who can get the job done.

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