After an amazing rally that pulled major market benchmarks to five-year highs last week, stocks were ready for a bit of a break. Bad news from China regarding an expected slowdown in its future growth gave investors the excuse they were waiting for to take some profits, and by the close, the Dow Jones Industrials (DJINDICES:^DJI) lost 26 points, or about 0.2%. Broader market measures performed slightly worse, with small caps and the tech-heavy Nasdaq seeing losses of more than half a percent.
But several Dow stocks bucked the downward trend and posted gains today. UnitedHealth Group (NYSE:UNH) was the big winner, rising 0.8% after announcing its planned acquisition of Brazilian health-insurance giant Amil. Given the political risk of being overly exposed to the U.S. health insurance system, UnitedHealth's move to diversify geographically makes a lot of sense, and Brazil's high growth rate has given Amil huge potential that UnitedHealth should be able to capitalize on.
McDonald's (NYSE:MCD) rose about 0.6%. Europe's travails haven't been kind to the multinational fast-food company, as domestically focused rivals haven't had to deal with the recessionary economic climate and social unrest that Europe has seen more of in recent months. But unless you believe that Europe's economic slide will be permanent, McDonald's stands to benefit in the long run from renewed growth whenever it comes, and smart value investors won't hesitate to get in while shares are trading at a slight discount to their price from earlier in the year.
Finally, American Express (NYSE:AXP) picked up almost half a percent as it announced the expansion of its pilot prepaid program with Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT). The Bluebird card represents the latest in AmEx's attempt to go beyond its traditional high-end customer base to capture more people who avoid traditional bank accounts. Interestingly, Bluebird has low fees, indicating that AmEx intends to make money on the merchant side rather than through its customers.
Fool contributor Dan Caplinger doesn't own shares of the companies mentioned in this article. You can follow him on Twitter, @DanCaplinger. The Motley Fool owns shares of McDonald's. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of McDonald's and UnitedHealth, as well as creating a diagonal call position in UnitedHealth and writing a covered strangle position on American Express. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Fool has a disclosure policy.