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.
In the new age of computer-dominated trading, the occasional glitch is proving to be an accepted fact of life on Wall Street. The Nasdaq Composite halted trading for more than three hours Thursday as a technical malfunction that disabled real-time quotes was fixed. But as trading finally resumed in the late afternoon, the Nasdaq continued to rise, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) ended a six-day losing streak, gaining 66 points, or 0.4%, to end at 14,963.
Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) shares, which stopped trading as the exchange's technical problems were remedied, ended the day up 2.5%. The tech mainstay earned a "buy" rating from research outfit Nomura Securities, which cited the potentially positive influence of a San Francisco-based activist hedge fund with a stake in the company. The fund, ValueAct, is reportedly seeking a position on the board of directors, a move that Nomura believes could catapult shares higher if share buybacks or higher dividends gain advocacy.
Alcoa (NYSE:AA), which dropped 2% yesterday, bounced back today, adding 2.4% as metals prices advanced. Aluminum has declined in price from more than $0.90 per pound at the beginning of the year to $0.84 per pound today, a fall mimicked by Alcoa's stock price, which is down more than 7% this year.
Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ), the largest publicly traded health-care company in the world, lost 0.6% Thursday. With just one in five blue chips ending in the red today, that earned the esteemed company a spot as one of the Dow's worst daily performers, though very little changed in terms of J&J's long-term outlook. The company did just complete a $1 billion acquisition of Aragon Pharmaceuticals, which makes an exclusive prostate cancer drug that's growing sales quickly -- not exactly a bearish acquisition on the face of it!
Lastly, Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ) shares plummeted 12.5% Thursday, as Wall Street showed its utter displeasure with the company's quarterly report yesterday. Unfortunately -- and as the severe decline may indicate -- Wednesday's developments may actually have long-term implications for HP investors. HP is trying to refocus its business, shifting from a PC-centric business model to a more enterprise-focused structure. Not only did HP disappoint on earnings, but it emphasized its own failure to succeed in the enterprise arena thus far, reassigning the longtime leader of that segment elsewhere.