As expected, GDP was revised higher for the fourth quarter, and it shows that the economy grew 0.1% instead of shrinking 0.1% as earlier estimates said. This, combined with a 22,000-person drop in initial unemployment claims to 344,000 and the first increase in consumer debt in four years, has stock markets moving higher today despite the pending sequester. As of 3:25 p.m. EST, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) is up 0.24%, while the S&P 500 (SNPINDEX:^GSPC) is up 0.31%.
DuPont (NYSE:DD) is one of the big winners today, climbing 1%. The company's vice president of research said the company may be able to increase wheat yield by 20% with hybrid wheat technology, which is now in the company's development pipeline. DuPont is the world's second-largest seed maker, and wheat is the most planted crop, so this could be big for the company in the long term.
AT&T (NYSE:T) and Verizon both jumped 1% after prepaid operator Leap Wireless reported terrible fourth-quarter results. Consumers don't seem interested in paying large upfront costs to buy cellphones, even if there are lower costs on the back end. This bodes well for AT&T and Verizon, which offer subsidies on devices in order to rope subscribers into lucrative contracts. The competitive moat around these companies seems to keep getting bigger, and there's little chance anyone will be able to catch up.
In the market's doghouse today sits J. C. Penney (NYSE:JCP), the retailer that can't seem to do anything right. The company saw same-store sales fall 32% and reported a $2.51 per-share loss for the quarter. The stock has fallen 17% today, and it's unclear whether J. C. Penney will be able to turn things around and survive much longer.