This week, the sequester came and went with barely a look from Wall Street. Spending cuts will hit the U.S. economy over the next year, but the good news is that economic news was relatively strong this week, and that's more of the focus for investors these days. Durable-goods orders grew, pending home sales were up, and consumer confidence continues to rise in the face of a slow economic recovery. So the bull won the week by a small margin, pushing the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) 0.64% higher and the S&P 500 (SNPINDEX:^GSPC) up 0.17%.
Leading the way this week was Home Depot (NYSE:HD) with a 5.3% gain. The company reported better-than-expected earnings on Tuesday and gave very bullish statements on the future. Management raised its dividend by 23% and announced a $17 billion share-repurchase program, which it wouldn't do if it was concerned about earnings going forward. This is just another indication that housing is getting better, which is great for the economy.
Intel's (NASDAQ:INTC) stock rose 3% this week, driven by an announcement that the company will act as the foundry for Altera's new semiconductors. Altera's Field Programmable Gate Array is based on Intel's 14-nanometer tri-gate technology, and Intel will reportedly command more than a 50% margin in this outsourcing work. Intel doesn't act as a foundry often for other companies, and this isn't a wholesale strategy shift, but it will pick and choose markets where it's attractive, especially in the new 14-nanometer market.
Rounding out the top 3 is Verizon (NYSE:VZ), which was up 2.9% this week. Competitor Leap Wireless, which is trying to break into the market by allowing customers to avoid contracts by buying unsubsidized phones, reported terrible fourth-quarter results this week, and Verizon and AT&T both jumped on the news. Consumers just can't get enough of phone subsidies and are willing to pay higher access costs to get them. The stranglehold Verizon Wireless and AT&T have on the wireless industry looks to only be getting stronger after weeks like this.