After an intense week of economic data, investors may be taking a breather this morning, sending the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) lower in trading so far today. The index is down 52 points as of 11:45 a.m. EDT, with only seven component stocks in positive territory. Though some positive data did come to light this morning, investors may be looking for more concrete proof that the economy is in fact getting better.
Disappointment leaves bad taste
Last week was heavy on new economic data, but the single most anticipated report was Friday's Employment Situation from the Department of Labor Statistics. And what investors got was a big plate of disappointing news -- only 162,000 new jobs added during the month of July, far below the anticipated rate for a labor market that had seemed to be steadily improving. Add to that a drop in the official unemployment rate to 7.4%, but due mainly to a large drop in the number of workers participating in the labor market, and you've got yourself some dense data to try to parse through.
Though there was plenty of info last week that gave investors good vibes, the labor market's importance in the overall economy overshadows most of the other factors. With that, investors now have to figure out the impact of any new data points, and whether they can outweigh Friday's letdown. So far, the answer looks like a resounding "no."
Within the Dow
Though it didn't give any help to the Dow as its was reaching new heights on Friday, UnitedHealth Group (NYSE:UNH) is the index's biggest winner so far in trading today. Despite losing 1.2% on Friday, the health care provider is up 32.49% for the year so far -- even with the uncertainty surrounding the entire health care system. Though this morning's gains aren't the result of news pertaining directly to the company, UnitedHealth investors are getting plenty of incentive to stick around and see how the company handles the challenges ahead.
American Express (NYSE:AXP) is the sole financial component in positive territory so far this morning in trading. With more data arriving later this week on consumer credit and spending, the personal finance firm is sure to see some more action as the week moves forward. Bolstered so far this year by its focus on wealthier demographics, AmEx has risen almost 29% year to date. As the remaining segments of the population gain more footing and increase their consumer spending, AmEx and its competitors are sure to see more opportunities arise and revenue grow.
Both Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) and JPMorgan (NYSE:JPM) are struggling to keep their heads above water this morning, as investors weigh the gravity of recent charges against B of A. The bank has a flurry of new legal battles on its hands as the Securities and Exchange Commission, Justice Department, and New York attorney general's office all seek civil suits against it regarding mortgage-backed securities it sold. And JPMorgan's public exit from the commodities business may have let the bank cut its ties with questionable practices, but the implications of such an exit and its history may still be suspect to investors.