UPS Hits the Brakes While EA Soars

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.

Stocks finished the day mixed again today as the market seems hesitant to pick a direction this year after more than two full weeks of trading in 2014. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) finished up 42 points, or 0.3%, but the S&P 500 and Nasdaq both fell. For the year, only the Nasdaq has gained.

Several economic reports were released today, but nearly all were in line with expectations. December housing starts and building permits dipped from November totals, but still met estimates at an annual pace of nearly a million. Total housing starts last year were 923,400, an 18% jump from 2012. December industrial production grew 0.3%, matching projections, and the University of Michigan's consumer confidence survey rated 80.4, below estimates of 83.0, but still strong.

Earnings reports from financial companies continued to roll in today as Morgan Stanley jumped 4.4% on improvements in investment banking and stock trading revenue. Dow financials Visa and American Express also both surged, each gaining more than 3.6% as AmEx turned in a strong fourth quarter on solid growth in card member spending.

Moving in the other direction after reporting preliminary earnings today was UPS (NYSE: UPS  ) , which was down more than 4% pre-market on a disappointing update, but recovered to finish down just 0.6%. The parcel-delivery giant is often seen as a bellwether for the economy, so perhaps it's no surprise that the stock fell as retailers have widely reported disappointing holiday seasons. Big Brown said costs were up due to increased shipments and weather, and management now expects full-year EPS of $4.57, below previous guidance of $4.65-$4.85. It also said it expects EPS growth of 10%-15% this year, in line with its long-term targets, and a solid clip for a company of its size. Shares likely rebounded as investors realized that the poor quarter was a one-time event, and that UPS is a strong brand and a leader in a huge and growing industry.

Electronic Arts (NASDAQ: EA  ) , on the other hand, moved up 12% after the video game maker got an endorsement from NPD research group, and a buy rating from CRT Capital. In its holiday sales report on the video game industry, NPD said EA sales jumped 40% even as industry-wide sales fell. Meanwhile, CRT initiated coverage with a buy, saying that the release of Titanfall this March should drive sales and the World Cup's effect on its sales of its trademark FIFA soccer game. Still, video game makers tend to be volatile, and CRT warned as much saying this stock was not for the "faint of heart."

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