Mimicking the morning pessimism seen yesterday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) was down about 100 points in early trading before rallying higher, presumably after Wall Street's coffee kicked in. This time, the Dow actually ended in the black, adding eight points, or less than 0.1%, to close at 15,303. But for an index that was almost exactly sideways on Friday, the performance of Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG) stock highlighted the day.
Rarely do you hear about major swings in Procter & Gamble's stock price. That's because, as a $220-billion global consumer goods company, there aren't many unseen catalysts. But an unseen catalyst is exactly what sparked P&G's 4% surge today, after the company announced the return of former CEO A.G. Lafley. Investors hope Lafley, who ran the multinational from 2000-2009 with great success, can spark better growth in emerging markets, where results have been underwhelming recently.
Another corporate powerhouse, Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT), ended 1.3% higher Friday. The retailer has faced recent difficulties with keeping store shelves adequately stocked after cost-cutting measures that reduced employees per store; a new executive compensation plan that factors in product availability will be voted on during the shareholder meeting on June 7.
On the losing side of the Dow, Verizon Communications (NYSE: VZ) slipped 1%, ranking as the second-worst blue chip of the day. While Verizon has lost ground in four of the last five trading sessions, the long-term prospects for the telecom giant haven't materially changed. That said, Dish Network continues to negotiate with a growing number of banks for terms to finance a potential buyout of Verizon rival Sprint Nextel, which would make for a much more formidable competitor.
While Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ) was easily the most pronounced laggard today, slumping 2.6%, Friday's underperformance is misleading. That's because the stock rocketed up 17.1% yesterday after slamming earnings expectations and forecasting better future results than anyone in his or her right mind was looking for. HP is a fairly volatile stock to begin with, and today's losses most likely stemmed from impatient investors taking profits going into the long weekend.
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