The Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI) closed basically flat today, even as a report came out indicating that the eurowide economy shrank by an annualized 0.7% last quarter. Budget cuts in periphery countries are continuing to take their toll on economic growth.

One bit of good news: U.S. retail sales rose 0.8% in July, the highest in five months. A few big names rose considerably today:


Price Change

Home Depot (NYSE: HD) 3.6%
Pfizer (NYSE: PFE) 1.1%
Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT) 0.8%

Home Depot reported 12% earnings growth as a result of cost savings and stronger sales of home-improvement supplies and accessories. Especially encouraging for shareholders of the retailer were that some of the states to show the best turnaround were the hardest-hit housing markets, suggesting that the industry may be due for an improvement as housing continues to recover. Home Depot also raised its full-year earnings guidance. It'll be interesting to see what Lowe's (NYSE: LOW) says when it releases earnings on Monday. Home Depot's chief competitor has had a much more difficult time at producing a sales rebound on a same-store basis lately.

Better retail sales also helped boost Wal-Mart shares. The world's largest retailer, which announced its own brand of high-end dog food today, is expected to post earnings per share of $1.17 when it reveals second-quarter earnings on Thursday.

In a flurry of activity, Pfizer is buying the rights to sell a nonprescription form of AstraZeneca's popular heartburn medicine, Nexium, for $250 million, as well as filing an IPO for one-fifth of its multibillion-dollar Zoetis animal-health unit.

Home Depot, Pfizer, and Wal-Mart all beat the market today, but as investors it's also important for us to remember to keep our eyes on long-term performance. If you're looking for some more stock ideas, The Motley Fool recently highlighted "The 3 Dow Stocks Dividend Investors Need." You can get the full scoop on these three promising Dow dividend dynamos.

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