U.S. stock markets had a wild week, climbing early in the week only to plunge on Friday as traders sold on increased tensions in Ukraine. Economic data continues to be decent but not spectacular, and we're seeing more and more evidence of a slowdown in housing, but earnings are still strong so investors shouldn't be worried at this point.
When it was all said and done, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI ) fell 0.29% for the week and the index continues to march sideways for 2014.
Home Depot (NYSE: HD ) was actually the Dow's best stock with a 3% gain this week. The stock was up big early this week after BMO Capital Markets upgraded the stock to outperform, saying the stock could jump 25% in coming months. As I mentioned, the stock jump and the upgrade come as housing data is getting worse in the United States. The Census Bureau said this week that new home sales fell 14.5% in March to a seasonally adjusted rate of 384,000. While Home Depot isn't cheering a housing slowdown, it's somewhat insulated because it's focused more on home improvement than new construction. As long as home prices are rising, which they still are year over year, Home Depot is in good shape.
Travelers (NYSE: TRV ) was a more traditional move, gaining 1.9% after reporting strong earnings. Net premiums written rose 4.9% to $5.87 billion and earnings per share jumped from $2.31 a year ago to $2.95, well above the $2.16 estimate from Wall Street. Travelers has been focusing on increasing rates and margins in a low interest rate environment to improve profitability and the strategy is working with another strong quarter.
Rounding out the top three is Caterpillar (NYSE: CAT ) , who was also up 1.8% after reporting stronger than expected earnings. The company is facing headwinds from falling commodity prices and therefore fewer mining sales but revenue was actually up slightly to $13.24 billion in the first quarter. Net income was even more impressive, up 5% from a year ago to $922 million, or $1.44 per share. Caterpillar is weathering this weak demand well, and investors should be very happy with an increased earnings guidance of $5.55 per share in earnings this year, up a quarter from the last guidance.
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