Most people look forward to the weekend. But the stock market seemed to get more and more scared near the close of trading today, perhaps as investors wait to see what might come out of Europe. The weekend has tended to be a popular time for European governments and policy makers to consider big moves and, with speculation that Spain could be preparing severe fiscal measures as part of a request for eurozone bailout money, investors seemed to want to protect their gains from earlier in the month. By the close, the Dow Jones Industrials (INDEX: ^DJI) gave up what had been a 65-point gain earlier in the day, to finish down 17 points.
But a few of the Dow's component stocks managed to break the trend and stay higher. McDonald's (NYSE: MCD) finished up 0.6%, after having announced last night that it would increase its dividend by 10%, to $0.77 per share. The move marks the latest in a 10-year string of double-digit percentage dividend increases, showing that the fast-food giant has become increasingly committed to sharing its success with its shareholders.
ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM) picked up 0.4%, nearing a new four-year high, as oil prices recovered somewhat from their recent swoon. The company said yesterday that it would buy up Denbury Resources' (NYSE: DNR) assets in the Bakken shale area in western North Dakota and eastern Montana. The $1.6 billion deal gives ExxonMobil a roughly 50% bigger stake in the Bakken, which has transformed North Dakota into a booming energy powerhouse.
Finally, General Electric (NYSE: GE) rose about half a percent, and hit a new four-year high. The company didn't have any market-moving news today, but most of the conglomerate's businesses have had powerful recoveries since the financial crisis hobbled GE. Despite concerns about its jet engine division, GE has demonstrated, once again, its ability to endure, even though challenging conditions.
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