U.S. Markets Taking Investors for a Ride Today

Today has been slow in terms of economic releases, but the major indexes have moved rather sharply. As of 12:45 p.m. EDT, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) was down 32 points, or 0.2%, after repeatedly rising and falling in early trading. Meanwhile, the S&P 500 was down 0.27% and the Nasdaq down 0.16% after following similar trajectories to the blue-chip index.

Within the Dow shares of McDonald's are up 3.3% to lead all winners higher, even after the release of a weak monthly sales figure yesterday. Click here to read my colleague Dan Caplinger's take on the fast-food juggernaut's stock movement today. As for the Dow losers, the telecom stocks are leading the index lower today. Shares of AT&T (NYSE: T  ) are down 1%, while Verizon (NYSE: VZ  ) has lost 1.3% of its value. Over the weekend AT&T announced it was reducing the price for its Mobile Share Value plan from $80 to $65 per month, with stipulations. The move is an attempt to combat the price cuts T-Mobile has been making to attract more customers to its network. Along with T-Mobile's aggressive pricing moves, AT&T and Verizon also must worry about a possible Sprint-T-Mobile merger. Masayoshi Son, chairman of Sprint parent company SoftBank, is making the rounds today to drum up support  for the deal in Washington. Son has argued that the U.S. telecom industry needs change, and that the combined company would help boost America's mobile investments, speeds, and innovation. One problem with Son's argument is the U.S. mobile network is rather top-notch when compared to other nations.  

Nonetheless, AT&T and Verizon shareholders should pay close attention to the potential Spring-T-Mobile merger, which would likely create an even more serious competitor to the lead telecoms.

Outside the Dow, shares of two retailers are heading in opposite directions. J.C. Penney (NYSE: JCP  ) was up more than 8% after the stock was upgraded from neutral to buy by Citigroup analyst Oliver Chen, who also boosted the price target to $11. Chen said believes investors' concerns about the company's credit problems are overblown, and if J.C. Penney's can hit its first-quarter and fiscal 2014 guidance, investors' fears will dissipate, giving way for the stock to move higher.  

Shares of Urban Outfitters (NASDAQ: URBN  ) were down 4.4% after the company reported quarterly earnings after the closing bell yesterday. The company posted revenue of $905.9 million and earnings per share of $0.59. Wall Street had expected revenue to hit $927.86 million and earnings per share of $0.55. Furthermore, management stated it remains very cautious about the current quarterly performance due to continued challenges.  

Both J.C. Penney and Urban Outfitters certainly have their work cut out for them, and neither appears to be a sure investment win today.

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