On Monday and Tuesday, little of note happened in the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI), as investors looked to high-ranking Federal Reserve officials for some indication of how long quantitative easing measures will continue. But today the Big Cheese himself, Chairman Ben Bernanke, spoke to the Senate about the central bank's plans. While remaining evasive about specifics, Bernanke indicated the Fed would continue its current stimulus efforts -- that is, until the labor market improves. Ironically fearing the prospects of lower unemployment, the Dow lost 80 points, or 0.5%, to close at 15,307.
Ending Wednesday as the Dow's top performer, Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) rallied 1.8% on news the company will move to divest from its majority stake in animal health business Zoetis. Shareholders applauded the decision that will allow Pfizer to focus more on its core strength of developing drugs for, you know, humans. Shareholders will have the option to trade in their Pfizer holdings for a stake in Zoetis, but at a discount.
Home Depot (NYSE:HD) shares gained 1.3% after ending with healthy gains yesterday on an upbeat earnings report. While today's run may have something to do with that success, it probably had more to do with the woes of its competitor. Lowe's announced results of its own today, making Home Depot's competitive strength known. Lowe's grew profits by less than 3%, while Home Depot's surged nearly 20%. Yikes.
After hitting 52-week highs in the morning, chemical giant E.I. du Pont de Nemours (NYSE:DD) closed 1.4% lower today as shares sagged with the broader market. The $50 billion company has seen 23% gains this year as its stock remains attractive for value and dividend investors. With shares trading at a P/E below 12, offering a 3.2% annual payout, and DuPont boasting an intimidating intellectual property portfolio, today's slip could present an opportunity.
Cisco Systems (NASDAQ:CSCO) shed 2.8% Wednesday to end as the index's worst performer. After experiencing a 12% pop in a single day last week when earnings blew the market away, Wall Street's expectations are coming back down to earth. For long-term investors, today's slump is just a bump in the road. Cisco clearly remains a leader in information technology and is in an enviable position as the growth of cloud computing presents new opportunities for growth.
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