Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over daily movements, we do like to keep an eye on market changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.
After a flurry of data last week sent stocks to new highs, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) gave back 46 points, or 0.3%, today, in the lowest full-day trading volume of the year. With the bulk of earnings season in the rearview mirror and a few weeks left to squeeze out of summer, trading should be calm for the duration of the month.
One economic report was released today, the Institute for Supply Management's July Services Index, which jumped to 56 from 52.2 a month ago, beating estimates of 53.2. New orders were particularly strong, jumping to 57.7 from 50.8 in June, perhaps a sign of a strong recovery in the second half of the year. Adding further to that credence was the ISM's July manufacturing report, released last Thursday, which hit a two-year high.
UnitedHealth (NYSE:UNH) was the Dow's top dog today, bucking the overall trend and rising 1.5% on an overall strong day for health insurers. Peers Humana and WellPoint were up 1.5% and 1.8%, respectively, as well. There was no specific news on UnitedHealth, but with markets at record highs, investors may be looking to defensive stocks to stretch their gains, and UnitedHealth is one of the cheapest on the Dow based on P/E. With a revenue stream protected from the vicissitudes of the business cycle, and a potential market opportunity with Obamacare set to begin enrollment in two months, it could be a smart bet.
Intel (NASDAQ:INTC), meanwhile, was the Dow's biggest loser today, falling 1.3%, though much of that drop seemed to be due to the stock going ex-dividend today, meaning that it's next quarterly dividend will be paid to shareholders who held the stock yesterday. While Intel pays off the Dow's biggest dividend yields at 3.9%, investors wanting growing dividend payments should look somewhere else as the chip maker revenue and profits have been falling sharply recently amid a secular decline in the PC market. Considering that it will be spending the next few years refocusing its chips on tablets and other new media in order to grow profits once again, I wouldn't expect a dividend hike anytime soon.
Outside the Dow, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) finished up 1.5% after the Obama Administration vetoed an International Trade Commission ruling that Apple could not sell older models of iPhones and iPads through AT&T because it violated a Samsung patent. It was the first such veto by a president of an ITC ban in 25 years. The veto will not make a huge difference to Apple's bottom line as the older models do not sell well anymore, but it still represents an important win in the patent wars for Apple against perhaps its biggest rival.
Fool contributor Jeremy Bowman owns shares of Apple. The Motley Fool recommends UnitedHealth Group. It recommends and owns shares of Apple and Intel. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.