Dow Ignores Data, Ends Higher as Sears Jumps for 3rd Straight Day

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 Dow Jones Industrial Average broke its four-day winning streak yesterday, as the latest major winter storm hit the East Coast, threatening to curb travel and restrict commerce. But today, investors got a glimpse at some cold, hard data, as weekly jobless claims numbers and retail sales for January both came out. Both of them ended up disappointing: jobless claims jumped by 8,000, and retail sales slumped 0.4% last month. Wall Street didn't seem to care, however, and the Dow tacked on 63 points, or 0.4%, to end at 16,027. 

Dow component McDonald's (NYSE: MCD  ) saw its stock rise modestly Thursday, rising 0.6% in trading. Shares of the fast-food giant haven't done much for shareholders in the last year, adding just 1.5% during that period. But long-term investors know that the "what have you done for me lately," momentum-based strategy isn't the most lucrative way to allocate your capital. While McDonald's stock has stagnated during the past year, it pays a great dividend -- now 3.4% annually -- and there happens to be a potential catalyst on the horizon. McDonald's is teaming with Kraft Foods Group (NASDAQ: KRFT  ) to offer its popular McCafe coffee in grocery stores this year. It doesn't sound like a big deal, but there's no shortage of coffee drinkers out there, and it never hurts to improve your distribution.

Shares of Sears Holdings (NASDAQ: SHLD  ) surged 7.5% today, bringing the stock's three-day gains to a remarkable 21.5%. This is where the allure of short-term profits can burn you: Sears' books are loaded with debt, the company's burning through cash, sales are slumping, and CEO Eddie Lampert's even been forced to liquidate assets to raise capital. Today's rally was driven solely by the news that investment advisory firm Force Capital Management has taken a large stake in the department store. Notable new investors in struggling businesses like Sears often push for dramatic changes from management as they attempt to boost the share price; this is part of the speculative rationale that drove Sears higher today.

Finally, building-materials manufacturer Louisiana-Pacific (NYSE: LPX  ) jumped 5.6% Thursday, as fourth-quarter results beat on earnings, and yearly sales came in higher than forecast, as well. Revenue grew by 23%, to $2.1 billion, in 2013 on the strength of the U.S. real-estate recovery. Louisiana-Pacific's top-line growth mimics almost exactly the 22.7% growth in housing starts seen in November 2013, when builders began more projects than they had in more than five years.

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