Many investors are thinking more about tomorrow's feast than today's stock market action, but those who have participated in today's session so far seem pretty optimistic. Despite data that showed a pullback in consumer sentiment, a rise in the four-week moving average of jobless claims, and ongoing concerns about the fiscal cliff and the difficult negotiations still needed to resolve it, the Dow Jones Industrials (DJINDICES:^DJI) managed to pick up 17 points by 10:45 a.m. EST. Broader markets were closer to unchanged, though, as it becomes clear that December will be pivotal in determining the direction of the market in 2013 and, potentially, beyond.
Among Dow stocks, Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ) could only manage a bounce of about 1% after a 12% plunge yesterday. As more details about the company's ill-fated acquisition of Autonomy come out, the inevitable pointing of blame will represent yet another distraction in HP's attempts to turn its business around. The episode underscores the value of solid, dependable management, as HP's revolving-door policy in the executive suite arguably allowed former leaders to make big gambles without ever being held accountable during their short tenures.
Boeing (NYSE:BA) rose 1.5% despite reports yesterday that engineers at the company could vote to go on strike rather than approve a contract proposal. The current contract was extended through Nov. 25, and representatives from both sides will meet to try to avert a stoppage. For Boeing, the stakes are high, as a walkout would make it that much harder for the aircraft maker to deliver on its production targets and make customer deliveries on time.
Finally, ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM) and Chevron (NYSE:CVX) both posted modest gains of about a quarter-percent. Oil prices rose by nearly $1 to $86.40 per barrel in early trading, but volatility in the price of crude has risen along with escalating tensions in the Middle East. Meanwhile, Exxon declared force majeure on exports from Nigeria, becoming the fourth big global company to do so and marking an example of how fragile oil markets can be in the face of supply disruptions.