Things are far from back to normal for millions of residents in the hard-hit Atlantic seaboard, with much of New Jersey and the New York metropolitan area looking to be without power for days or even weeks. Looking beyond the devastation, however, investors turned to signs that the economy was on more solid footing -- at least before the impact of Sandy is fully realized, which economist Mark Zandi estimates at $50 billion, ranking it among the most costly disasters in history. Nevertheless, gains in employment and consumer confidence bolstered the stock market on the first day of the month and, by the close, the Dow Jones Industrials (DJINDICES:^DJI) finished up 136 points, while broader markets fared even better in percentage terms.
The vast majority of Dow stocks followed the average higher. But a few got left behind. Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) was the big loser on the day, falling more than 2%. In its perpetual battle with online retail giant Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN), Wal-Mart is gearing up for its busiest season of the year. Yet, with Amazon today unveiling its Countdown to Black Friday deals campaign, the stakes are once again going up, and Wal-Mart will have to fight hard to compete.
Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) ended down 1.3%, after reporting earnings earlier today. As expected, the company's revenue plunged, as the company lost its patent protection on its blockbuster Lipitor drug. Despite attempts to maintain sales, generic versions are a lot cheaper, and the impact on Pfizer's overall financials was substantial. With no immediate recovery in sight, investors will have to worry until the company comes up with replacements for Lipitor's once-ample sales.
Finally, Travelers (NYSE:TRV) finished down 1%. The company, which models the financial impacts of natural disasters, doubled its estimate of insured losses related to Sandy to $20 billion. Although other estimates put insured losses at a lower level between $7 billion and $15 billion, few disagree that the storm will have a material impact on earnings for many insurance companies this quarter.