Only on Wall Street could disappointing manufacturing news be a bullish catalyst for the stock market. With factory output in April slipping to eight-month lows, investors reasoned that the Federal Reserve would be more reluctant to slow its $85 billion monthly bond-buying program. Financial stocks enjoyed a second straight day of impressive performance, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) gained 60 points, or 0.4%.
American Express (NYSE:AXP) ticked up for a second straight day, adding 1.8%. While yesterday's gains were partially because of favorable comments made by a hedge fund manager about financial stocks, today's gains may actually be due to some refinancing moves American Express made. It will issue $1.85 billion in low-interest five-year notes in order to pay back $1 billion worth of debt costing nearly 5%.
JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM) added 1.7% as financial stocks were the second-best performers of the day. Although manufacturing numbers were down, the housing markets don't seem to be doing too poorly: Homebuilders' confidence in May surged, as the resurgence in the domestic real estate markets could mean good things ahead for mortgage lenders like JPMorgan.
The oil and gas sector was the only major sector to decline today, and Chevron (NYSE:CVX) shares acted unsurprisingly, slipping 0.8% as a result. Today, the company announced a $1.5 billion investment in an Argentine energy company, but for the $240 billion Chevron, that's just a drop in the bucket.
By far the biggest decliner in the Dow, shares of Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ) lost 2.6%. Coming off a first quarter where PC sales slumped at a rate never seen before, HP is going to have to adapt quickly or risk years and years of subpar returns. With data from the U.K. today showing a 20% drop in PC shipments in the first quarter, HP investors are getting antsy about the future of the market.