Investors got a little good news heading into the weekend, a welcome sight to cap off a week of mixed economic reports. The Conference Board's Leading Economic Index, a gauge of 10 indicators, rose 0.6% to 95% in April, signaling better days ahead. The University of Michigan/Thomson Reuters Consumer Sentiment Index jumped to 83.7 in May from 76.4 a month ago, the best reading since July of 2007. These data points have the Dow Jones Industrial Average
Jamie Dimon also moved a few steps closer to keeping both the Chairman and CEO roles when one of T. Rowe Price Associates' largest stock funds said it would vote against a proposal to split the two positions. Results of the vote will be given at next Tuesday's annual meeting, and some observers have predicted a price drop for JPMorgan's shares if Dimon loses the vote.
Shares of Hewlett-Packard
A strong consumer should help retailers, but Wal-Mart is down 0.8% today, because the consumers who are feeling good about the economy aren't shopping at its stores. Yesterday, the company reported a paltry 0.2% rise in same-store sales during the first quarter, and that's not enough to please Wall Street if consumers overall are doing well. A big reason for Wal-Mart's woes is the fact that it relies on low- and middle-income consumers -- the very same people who were hit most by the payroll tax increase on Jan. 1. I don't expect Wal-Mart's fortunes to turn around quickly, but eventually a stronger consumer will translate to higher sales, even at the bottom end of the market.