You might think that fresh news of anemic jobs growth would send stocks spiraling downwards... and for good reason. But Wall Street couldn't fully get on board with that logic. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI), after initially falling on weak July payrolls data, rallied nearly 100 points from its morning lows to close at a record high. The reasoning? A fragile jobs market means there's more stimulus ahead. With that optimistic mind-set, the Dow ended with 30-point gains, rising 0.2%, to end at 15,658.
Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ) posted the largest gains in the index, advancing 2.9%, the stock's second straight day of 2% returns. Today's bullishness can be chalked up to a bevy of rumors and nonspecific developments (a few of the less-persuasive catalyst types, to be sure). Talk that activist investor Carl Icahn has a stake in HP drove the stock up, but were swiftly denied, only to be replaced by rumors that the company is working on a new smartphone. HP also dropped a price-fixing lawsuit against several Asian companies, though we don't know what type of remuneration, if any, it received for dropping the charges.
Agricultural heavyweight E.I. du Pont de Nemours (NYSE:DD) jumped 2.5% as Wall Street continued to applaud the company's recently closed, hard-fought acquisition of South Africa's Pannar Seed. The purchase, completed on Wednesday after years of pushback from South African regulators, gives DuPont a new outlet for growth, and further diversifies its operations. The exact terms of the deal weren't disclosed.
Following up poor earnings from Exxon yesterday, fellow energy giant Chevron (NYSE:CVX) also disappointed, falling 1.2%, as oil prices declined. Revenue fell 8% in the second quarter, but Chevron really saw profits fall, as they dipped 26% from the same quarter a year ago. With per-barrel prices of oil in the U.S. down from $97 a year ago, to just $92 in the second quarter this year, Chevron was bound to get hit financially as the oil and gas sector ended as the worst in the markets today.
Meanwhile, UnitedHealth Group (NYSE:UNH) was the Dow's biggest laggard, slumping 1.2% Friday. Healthcare providers as a whole didn't wow anybody today, with most of the money in the markets going to consumer services and technology. On the year, UnitedHealth shareholders have been amply rewarded -- shares are up 33 in 2013 as the health-care sector has surged.
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