Today, the Department of Labor announced that unemployment claims fell by 25,000, to 370,000, during the last week of November. Although the number came in lower then the 375,000 that analysts were expecting, the four-week average is still moving higher -- by 2,250 from the prior reading. While these numbers were so-so, most investors are awaiting the Labor Department's monthly jobs report for November, which will be released tomorrow.
Don't think about tomorrow, though; today, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) managed to pull itself higher before the closing bell. The Index currently sits at 13,074, up 39.55 points, or 0.3% for the day. And of the 30 stocks which make up the Dow, only eight of them ended the day in the red. This afternoon, I explained why Bank of America (NYSE:BAC), Travelers Company (NYSE:TRV), and Caterpillar (NYSE:CAT) all moved lower; click here to find out why. Of the 22 stocks which moved higher or remained flat for the day, three of the best performers today were McDonald's (NYSE:MCD), Chevron (NYSE:CVX), and Intel (NASDAQ:INTC).
So why were they higher?
Yesterday, I indicated that shares of McDonald's were falling because of an announcement from Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX) indicating that the coffee shop is planning on adding another 1,500 stores in the U.S. over the next five years. Now, today I am going to tell you why shares of McDonald's rose by 1.29% --because another competitor is also adding stores. Today, news broke indicating that YUM! Brands (NYSE:YUM) wants to expand into lesser-known regions of China.
As of now, nearly all of the U.S. food chains operating in mainland China are located in the country's biggest cities. As YUM! Brands ventures out into the less populated areas, other U.S. companies, like McDonald's, will get a free ride to see how the experiment plays out. If Western restaurant chains don't appeal to the more suburban Chinese consumer, no skin off the backs of McDonald's shareholders; but if YUM is successful, it opens the door to McDonald's to follow along, and expand its reach to billions of additional customers.
Oil giant Chevron saw its shares increase by 1.22% today. My Fool colleague Dan Carroll noted earlier today that the company announced that prior estimates for its Gorgon natural gas exploration project in Australia were about 15% too low. Although this means that costs will be higher for that venture, the majority of analysts had already made this prediction. Even though Chevron's management could still be wrong on their estimates, the reduction of some uncertainty surrounding the company caused investors to bid the stock price higher.
Shares of Intel were pushed higher by 1.56% today. The company's closest competitor in the PC microprocessor business, Advanced Micro Devices (NASDAQ:AMD), announced today that it cut a deal with GlobalFoundries to reduce its chip purchase agreement for both the fourth quarter of 2012, and the full 2013 fiscal year. Some believe that the deal should allow AMD to return to a positive free cash flow status by mid-2013. Although this shows that AMD believes the PC market will continue to struggle in the future, it also shows that Advanced Micro is slowly fading away, leaving more of what market share is left for Intel to take.
Fool contributor Matt Thalman owns shares of Bank of America and Starbucks. The Motley Fool owns shares of Bank of America, Intel, McDonald's, and Starbucks and has the following options: short JAN 2013 $47.00 puts on Starbucks. Motley Fool newsletter services recommend Chevron, Intel, McDonald's, and Starbucks. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.