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 three straight losing days, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) battled back today to finish up 28 points, or 0.2%. Oddly enough, in a week when the market has stepped back from record highs amid remarks from the Fed about the coming stimulus taper, today it gained in spite of them. This morning, Dallas Fed President said the central bank would probably begin the cutbacks next month as long as economic reports show improvement. The Dow was actually down by more than 50 points at one point, but climbed back over the course of the afternoon to finish in the green. The Initial unemployment claims report helped buoy markets, as the report showed new unemployment filings at just 333,000 last week, better than expectations of 340,000. That figure was actually above last week's five-year low of 328,000, but it still brought down the four-week moving average, which is the more closely watched unemployment gauge, to 335,500. That's the lowest the moving average has been since 2007.
On the Dow today, Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) was giving the blue chips the business, jumping 2.6% on an upgrade from Evercore, to overweight from equal weight. The investment research firm said Microsoft's enterprise business was a particularly strong asset, as it should contribute 80% of next year's profits. Still, Evercore acknowledged that the consumer side of the business needs attention as was evident in the software-maker's latest earnings report when shares tumbled by double digits. With the decline of the PC market, it's clear that Microsoft will need to find new growth avenues.
Caterpillar (NYSE:CAT) was another strong performer today, bumping up 1.9% after China released trade data that beat expectations. The world's most populous nation reported stronger-than-expected demand for its exports, news that comes after several months of data showing a slowdown. Caterpillar is hugely dependent on China and its voracious appetite for the commodities that have fueled its construction boom. Since China started spinning its wheels, shares of the machinery maker have lost nearly a third of its value, and its comeback will be key if Caterpillar shares are to rise again.
On the other end of the scorecard, JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM) shares dropped 0.9% after reports emerged that the Justice Dept. was investigating the TBTF bank over mortgage-backed investments sold before the housing collapse. The allegations come after the Department sued Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) for $850 million for the sale of similar securities earlier this week. The legal action serves as a reminder both that the banks are still dealing with the mess left over from the financial crisis, but also that the Feds seem unwilling to dish out a punishment severe enough to deter the big banks from future shenanigans.