Investors took a quiet ride this week, as the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) rose or fell nearly 100 points during intra-day trading before reversing course the past three days of the week. The roller coaster investors boarded start on Wednesday, with Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke testifying before Congress that the Fed's bond-buying program could end in the coming months -- and based on the central bank's meeting minutes, which were also released on Wednesday, it seems a number of Fed members think the quantitative easing programs should come to an end sooner rather than later.
This news sent shock waves throughout the markets as investors grappled with the thought that cheap money could soon be a thing of the past. Consequently, the Dow fell 51 points, or 0.33%, during the past five trading days, and now the blue-chip index sits at 15,303. The S&P 500 fared slightly worse, losing 0.99% last week, while the Nasdaq fell 1.13%. Twenty of the Dow's 30 components ended the week lower than were they began it.
Before we hit the Dow losers, let's look at the index's big winner of the week: Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ). Shares of Meg Whitman's turnaround project rose 13.82% this past week after the company released quarterly earnings. The company beat expectations on both the top revenue line and the bottom profit line despite a 10% drop in sales. But the real reason shares popped is that Whitman is doing what she promised investors she'd do, which is turn the company around and make it less reliant on the PC industry. She told analysts that the company, which is about 18 months into its five-year turnaround plan, is a little ahead of schedule with that turnaround, and that was something investors loved hearing.
The big losers
As we saw with Hewlett-Packard going from one of the worst performers two weeks ago to the best Dow component this past week, Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO) did the opposite and went from the best performer two weeks ago, after gaining 14.88% in five days, to becoming one of the worst stocks this week, after losing 2.92%. The most likely cause for the decline is that short-term traders were selling shares after the big run-up last week. The stock is up only 19.88% year to date, so after it rose nearly 15% in one week, taking profits off the table seemed surely seemed like a good idea to a number of market participants. There was also a report this week in which a Zacks analyst questioned Cisco's growth prospects. It's believed that IT spending in general will slow in the coming months and that EMC will pose a threat to some of Cisco's business units.
Shares of Verizon (NYSE:VZ) fell lower by 3.67% this past week, making it the worst Dow performer. The company is facing a number of headwinds, and this week it may have taken on a few more. The experts at TechHive rated Verizon's rival AT&T No. 1 for the second year in a row as having the fastest wireless LTE network. Even though Verizon can claim it has the largest network, most consumers live in major metropolitan areas that are covered by both AT&T and Verizon, so having the fastest network makes a big difference. Verizon continues to build out its network and will probably soon begin updating it to a faster speed, so investors shouldn't take this news as a reason to sell.
And finally, just as insurance investors seemed to have overcome the negative pull of superstorm Sandy, the Midwest was hit with a tornado that devastated suburbs of Oklahoma City. The tornado is probably the reason shares of Travelers (NYSE:TRV) fel 3.35% this past week, making the company the second worst performing Dow component during the past five trading sessions. But while this storm will probably weigh on Travelers' bottom line, as we saw with Sandy and other storms, the company plans for these types of events and will end up probably performing better than most expect. Anyone investing in insurance companies should fully understand that these events will happen, and when they do, not to panic-sell, but hold firm and wait for better days.
A few other Dow losers this week:
- Microsoft, down 1.72%
- Alcoa, down 1.51%
- Caterpillar, down 1.66%
- AT&T, down 1.84%
- Intel, down 0.58%
- United Technologies, down 2.37%
- Walt Disney, down 1.63%
- McDonald's, down 1.23%