If this is the first article you've read this week pertaining to the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI), you should be thankful. While the index managed to close the week higher by 17 points, or 0.13%, it was certainly a hard-fought and stress-filled five days and 17-point gain.
On Monday, the Dow was down as many as 108 points at one time, but it managed to close the day down just 41 points. Tuesday wasn't as friendly to investors, as the index lost 85 points. But the bulls came out on Wednesday and rallied for a 110-point gain, which was just points below the highs of the day. Once the bulls got running, they continued into Thursday and Friday, as stocks were pushed higher first by 44 points and then 3 points, respectively.
The majority of the moves higher came this week from a number of economic indicators showing the U.S. economy is slowly moving forward, but the bearish feelings spread by the politicians jockeying for support of their solution to the looming fiscal cliff kept the markets from breaking out.
After another wild roller-coaster ride for market participants this week, only six of the Dow's 30 components ended the week in the red. But before we get to the big losers, I'd like to point out that Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ) was the Dow's big winner this week. Shares of HP moved higher by 4.75%. Last week the company announced disappointing quarterly results and informed shareholders that Autonomy, a software company that it acquired a little more than a year ago, may have been cooking the books before the acquisition.
The possible fraud has been blamed as the reason HP took an $8.8 billion writedown on Autonomy this past quarter, and the move higher this week indicates that the knee-jerk reaction from investors after all the news broke, was way overdone. Long-term-oriented investors should take note of these types of reactions and learn from others' mistakes.
Now to this week's losers
Shares of wireless communications company AT&T (NYSE:T) closed the week down just one penny and ended the week at $34.13, while the company's biggest competitor, Verizon (NYSE:VZ), managed to end the week up 1.57%. One reason Verizon may have left AT&T in the dust this week is that Verizon was the top-rated wireless carrier in a new survey conducted by Consumer Reports magazine. The report hich should help the company add new customers. But although AT&T performed poorly in a number of areas, it did receive the highest score for its 4G LTE network. Perhaps those Verizon 4G graph commercials don't really tell the whole story.
ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM) also managed to close the week lower as its Dow oil competitor moved higher. While Exxon ended the five trading days down 0.2%, Chevron (NYSE:CVX) moved higher by 0.89%. On Monday, Exxon announced that it will shut down a refinery in Yanbu, Saudi Arabia, starting on March 10 for about 45 days. That news, combined with Chevron's having spent the most money in the auction for drilling rights off the coast of Texas this week, may be two reasons Exxon's shares price fell as its competitor's rose.
Both Dow stocks American Express (NYSE:AXP) and Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) saw shares drop by 0.6% this week. With the week beginning just as the four busiest shopping days of the year -- Black Friday through Cyber Monday -- were ending, the fact that a credit card company's shares moved lower may seem somewhat odd. But with personal income numbers showing that growth was nil and that consumer spending fell by 0.2% in October, it only makes sense that the credit card company slid slightly lower.
For Intel, the story was a little different. Big news came last week when the company announced that CEO Paul Otellini will be leaving in May, and the stock dropped nearly 4%. This week, while shareholders were spared breaking news, consumers continued to move away from the PC and adapt to mobile computing. Investors are left struggling to find more pros than cons for owning the stock.
Speaking of mobile, shareholders of Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), the Dow's worst performer this week, had CEO Steve Ballmer admit that the company was late to the tablet war. Those comments came just around the same time news broke indicating that Microsoft has cut its Surface tablet order from suppliers in half, from 4 million units down to just 2 million. Microsoft was not only late to the party, but it now finds itself as the kid no one wants to play with. The only bright spot for shareholders this week was that Windows 8 sales are performing well thus far, with 40 million units sold, for a pace that beats Windows 7's performance to this point. Shares closed the week down 3.34%.
The last Dow loser this week was technology giant IBM (NYSE:IBM). Shares ended the week down 1.23% and are now up only 3.37% year to date. Even though IBM has a well-diversified business, at the end of the day it's still a technology company, and when the industry is performing poorly, shares of IBM are likely to be dragged lower.