Why the Dow Finished the Week With a Whimper

The Dow finished nearly flat today as IBM fell and Wal-Mart threatened new rivals. Meanwhile, Chipotle landed with thud after reporting earnings this morning.

Apr 17, 2014 at 10:00PM

After three straight solid gains this week, stocks ended the holiday-shortened week mixed and mostly flat, despite strong earnings reports and economic data. Among stocks moving the market today were IBM (NYSE:IBM), Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT), and Chipotle Mexican Grill (NYSE:CMG) as the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) dropped 16 points, or 0.1%, the S&P 500 moved up 0.1%, and the Nasdaq gained 0.2%.  

Initial unemployment claims were close to six-year lows for the second week in a row, rising from 302,000 to 304,000, but that was still below estimates of 312,000. The low figure helped pull the four-week moving average to 312,000, the lowest level it's seen since October 2007. This indicates that fewer people are losing their jobs and that the labor market is well on its way to returning to full health. The total number of Americans filing for unemployment also hit a six-year low at 2.739 million. While long-term unemployment continues to be a problem, the numbers are promising for a continuing recovery.

Elsewhere, a report from the Philadelphia Fed showed manufacturing jumping in the mid-Atlantic, hitting a rating of 16.6 in the regional bank's survey, well ahead of estimates at 8.6, and up from 9.0 in March. This indicates a strong expansion of activity in the region. Shipments were particularly robust, as the report shows business picking up after a slowdown due to winter weather.

On the Dow today, IBM earnings weighed on the blue chips, falling 3.3% after reporting earnings last night. As the stock is the second-highest priced on the index, it carries a disproportionate weight, and pushed the blue chips down as the other major indexes gained. Revenue declined again at Big Blue, falling 3.9%, to $22.5 billion, missing estimates at $22.9 billion, while EPS of $2.54 matched expectations.

Also making news on the Dow today was Wal-Mart, which made waves in yet another industry today, entering the money-transfer business. The world's largest retailer said it would partner with Ria, a licensed money-transfer operator, to become the first retailer to offer a money-transfer service it's calling Walmart-2-Walmart. The service purports to undercut rival prices by as much as 50%, and will be introduced to more than 4,000 Wal-Mart locations nationwide starting April 24. The news did little to push Wal-Mart stock, which moved up 0.6%, but money-transfer specialists tumbled as MoneyGram International fell 18%, and Western Union closed down 5% after opening down 9%.

Finally, Chipotle Mexican Grill shares had a wild ride today, gaining as much as 6.5% this morning after turning in strong earnings, before finishing down 6% once it said it would raise prices. Chipotle's first-quarter sales rocked, as the top-line jumped 24.4%, to $904.2 million on a 13.4% same-store sales increase. That figure easily topped estimates of $873.8 million, though costs weighed on profits as its EPS of $2.64 missed expectations of $2.86. The stock turned south on the price hike as investors seem to think higher prices could jeopardize its growth; but after a double-digit comp increase, Chipotle's earned the right to pass on more of its food costs.

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