For three days running, the Dow Jones Industrials (DJINDICES:^DJI) have set new all-time record highs. But today's gain of 33 points marked the smallest jump for the Dow out of its three record-setting sessions, and the slowing pace of gains suggests that investors may finally be running out of bullish steam. That could all change tomorrow when the latest figures on the employment situation come out; but, for now, investors in stocks are letting the good times roll.
More than a few stocks have missed out on the party. ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM) fell almost 1%, even with the price of crude oil rising by more than $1 per barrel today. The company is presenting its case before a New Hampshire court, defending against a lawsuit alleging that Exxon should be held liable for drinking-water contamination resulting from gasoline-additive MTBE. Although the potential damages from this lawsuit aren't enormous, at roughly $250 million, numerous MTBE-related lawsuits have been filed in the past 13 years.
Merck (NYSE:MRK) also dropped almost 1%, as the company found a replacement for its retiring head of research and development. The choice of Roger Perlmutter, who worked for more than a decade with Amgen (NASDAQ:AMGN) in broadening the biotech company's treatment offerings into several new areas, could help Merck reverse its recent pipeline failures, including its Tredaptive treatment for high cholesterol.
Outside the Dow, Pier 1 Imports (NYSE:PIR) fell 4% after giving disappointing guidance for its fiscal fourth quarter, which ended in February. Although quarterly same-store sales gained 7.9%, calls for earnings per share between $0.59 and $0.60 were slightly below estimates. Still, if the company's newly reinvigorated Internet-based sales continue to make Pier 1 into a dual threat, higher revenue could result in stronger results looking beyond the current quarter.
Finally, Rite Aid (NYSE:RAD) fell more than 2% after reporting a same-store sales decrease of 3.6% for February. Pharmacy sales dropped even more, with a 4.7% decline, suggesting that Rite Aid may not have been able to keep hard-won customers it obtained from competitor Walgreen last year. Unless the company can reverse its negative sales trend, its prospects look increasingly dim.