J.C. Penney Plummets, Rite Aid Rules; Dow Jumps 109 Points

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.

After erasing 189 points yesterday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) recovered most of Wednesday's losses today, as GDP numbers, and strong earnings from corporate America, boosted stocks. The U.S. economy grew at a 3.2% annualized rate in the fourth quarter, down from the third quarter's 4.1% pace, but ahead of the consensus 3% estimate. Sure, 3.2% is nothing to write home about; but considering the government was shut down for half of October, it shows the economy may be more robust than it seems. With investors applauding the growth, the Dow added 109 points, or 0.7%, to end at 15,848. 

Walt Disney (NYSE: DIS  ) stock finished as one of the top blue chip performers today, tacking on 2.7% by the ring of the closing bell. The services sector was the second hottest sector in the market Thursday, jumping 1.6% in trading. Aside from the general upswing on Wall Street, there wasn't one catalyst that sparked Disney's gains today, though shares have been slightly more volatile than usual recently. Because Disney is a truly global company that understands the opportunity afforded by international expansion -- it's opening a theme park in Shanghai next year -- shareholders were understandably relieved that Wall Street turned a blind eye to emerging markets fears today. 

Meanwhile, Rite Aid (NYSE: RAD  ) investors also scored a big win on Thursday, as shares soared 5.8% after the company posted sales growth in January. Same-store sales for the four-week period ending Jan. 25 rose 1.8% from the same period last year; the growth was driven entirely by the strength of pharmacy revenues. Despite the negative effect of new, cheaper generic alternatives on revenue growth, same-store pharmacy sales at Rite Aid still grew at a 3.2% clip, easily offsetting a 1.3% slump in front-end sales. The stock certainly would've been the right prescription to grow your portfolio a year ago -- Rite Aid shares are up 263% in the last 12 months.

Now, J.C. Penney (NYSE: JCP  ) stock also could've brought you riches -- if you'd decided to short its shares last January. After today's 8.3% fall, J.C. Penney's misfortunes have driven the stock down a total of 72% in the last year, and you'd be hard-pressed to find many vocal bullish support for the company on Wall Street. The department store's turnaround efforts haven't yielded much progress, and while shares may be looking appealing to some adventurous value investors, I'd heed Peter Lynch's famous warning on this one and "never try to catch a falling knife." I should know: I've gotten burned myself with J.C. Penney as I naively hoped for a turnaround that never materialized.

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