The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) pulled back from the record closing high it reached yesterday, breaking its four-day win streak in the process. Tomorrow investors will look to weekly jobless claims figures and readings from the consumer price index for guidance. If inflation starts rising too quickly, it could cause the Federal Reserve to allow interest rates to drift higher, making money harder to come by. Taking a more cautious approach, the Dow fell 101 points, or 0.6%, to end at 16,613.

Most blue chip stocks have already reported quarterly earnings, but Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) still hasn't. The company is on the docket for tomorrow, and shares lost 0.5% on Wednesday before its results. The world's largest retailer increasingly finds itself trying to grow by expanding its services rather than its stores: Wal-Mart has announced its entry into the used video game market, the money transfer business, and even auto insurance this year, while also doubling down on efforts to grow its online presence. I applaud the company's willingness to branch out, but I think it'll take longer than a quarter or two to see the impact.


Source: J.C. Penney website.

Meanwhile, J.C. Penney (NYSE:JCP) shares shed 5.3% as investors got jittery before tomorrow's highly anticipated quarterly results. This year may turn out to be one of the defining moments in J.C. Penney's history, with the validity of its turnaround story on the line. Analysts expect the struggling department store to finally post a year-over-year revenue increase in the first quarter, although it likely will post a net loss as heavy promotional deals drive revenue growth.

Finally, shares of flash-sales website Zulily (NASDAQ:ZU) soared 9.3% today, after initially losing more than 5% in morning trading. Today marked the end of the company's "lockup period," meaning company insiders who owned stock before Zulily's IPO six months ago are now allowed to sell their holdings. This naturally puts pressure on a stock, so at first glance today's rally doesn't make much sense. The explanation lies in the mechanics of the market: short sellers who already borrowed and sold Zulily shares in anticipation of a decline decided to take their profits, and in order to close their positions they had to buy back the stock today.

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John Divine has options on J.C. Penney. You can follow him on Twitter, @divinebizkid, and on Motley Fool CAPS, @TMFDivine.

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