Tomorrow, many of us will have a smorgasbord of food, family, friends, and good times, but today we will feast on an abundant amount of economic data. First off, the initial jobless-claims number fell from last week's 451,000 to 410,000, but the four-week average continues to climb and is now at 396,250, up 9,500 from last week. Next we saw positive Purchasing Managers Index numbers showing that U.S. manufacturing is growing at its fastest pace in five months. The PMI index rose to 52.4; anything greater than 50 shows expansion. Lastly, the University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index came in at 82.7 -- its highest level in more than four years but below economists' estimates of 84.5.
With mixed economic news, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) is fighting to move higher today, and as of 12:55 p.m. EST, the Dow is up 50 points, or 0.39%. So far during today's trading session, just five of the Dow's 30 components are in the red, and three of those losers are Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT), JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM), and Intel (NASDAQ:INTC).
So why are they down?
Wal-Mart is taking a lot of heat lately over the controversial decision to open its doors at 8 p.m. EST tomorrow, Thanksgiving Day. Shares are off their lows but still trading slightly lower for the day, down a mere 0.15%. On one hand the publicity is good because it informs potential shoppers that the store will be opened earlier than usual. But the negative side is that, once again, Wal-Mart is presented as the big bad retailer that will do anything to turn a profit. While we will have to wait and see whether this experiment pays off, today investors have turned slightly negative on the stock.
While Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) is one of today's top Dow stocks, its only fellow Dow banking stock ranks among the day's worst. Shares of JPMorgan Chase are down 0.17%, while Bank of America is up 0.93%. Investors may still be pulling out of JPMorgan because of the appointment of Marianna Lake to the company's top CFO spot. Lake is only 43 years old, which may raise concerns among investors who wonder whether she has the experience and knowledge to catch major issues before they turn sour, like the recent London Whale problem.
Shares of Intel are also moving lower today, currently down 0.63%. While some believe the change in top management didn't have any negative impact on the stock price, I beg to differ. My Foolish colleague Dan Caplinger noted yesterday that shares of Intel traded higher initially after the news that CEO Paul Otellini will step down in the spring. But as most investors know, the market doesn't always act rationally in the short term. The knee-jerk reaction to Otellini's departure may have been that new management could come in and create value for shareholders. But after further review, investors must be reminded that Intel hasn't named a new CEO yet, and the newcomer could lead Intel down the wrong path. While I'm not going to name names, most would agree that big technology companies across the board haven't made the best CEO choices lately. Finding a good replacement may be more difficult than investors would like it to be.