After yesterday's sluggish showing in which the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) lost 138 points on concerns over global manufacturing and slow hiring, blue chips rebounded Thursday, nearly erasing all of Wednesday's losses. Today's surge stemmed partially from a move that many economists already expected: the European Central Bank cut the benchmark refinancing rate from 0.75% to 0.5%, attempting to encourage borrowing to stimulate growth.
What economists didn't see coming was a sudden drop in claims for jobless benefits, which reached the lowest level in more than five years. Stocks responded by firing on all cylinders, as 90% of Dow components climbed. And none rose more rapidly than Cisco Systems (NASDAQ:CSCO), which added 1.8% after a serious stumble yesterday caused by concerns over rival Arista Networks' new super-fast data switch offering.
While technically the third largest gainer of the day, Chevron's (NYSE:CVX) considerable weight in the index makes the oil giant's 1.5% gains worthy of discussion. Chevron shares enjoyed a boost today after an Ontario judge blocked legal efforts by a law firm to seize some of Chevron's foreign assets -- an attempt based on an $18 billion ruling against the company in Ecuador.
Only two Dow components ended in the red, one of which was UnitedHealth Group (NYSE:UNH). Slipping 0.4%, investors in UnitedHealth are dealing with the fact that the dynamics of the health-care industry are changing as "Obamacare" measures go into effect. The financial impact on companies like UnitedHealth is by no means clear, which makes for anxious shareholders.
Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO) ended as the biggest loser in the Dow Thursday, despite only slumping 0.6%. Though there wasn't one obvious catalyst causing investors to sell off today, uproar over the name of the Rio de Janeiro stadium -- where the 2016 Olympics will be held -- could be drawing unwanted press to the soda giant. The disgraced former president of FIFA, Joao Havelange, took bribes during his time in power; Rio's stadium now bears his name. Though Coke had nothing to do with Havelange's impropriety, Coke began sponsoring FIFA during Havelange's tenure.