Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over market movements, we do like to keep an eye on big changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.
Yesterday's Fed minutes sent the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) down 105 points, with the index extending its losing streak for a sixth day -- the longest such streak since July of last year. This morning, some positive economic news is boosting investor confidence, while tech stocks are taking center stage. As of 11:45 a.m. EDT, the Dow is up 36 points.
As most of us here at the Fool predicted yesterday, the Fed minutes didn't give investors a ton of new insight into when the current stimulus program would be tapered. Essentially, the minutes showed a consensus among the Federal Open Market Committee members that tapering should begin, but not when. The plan appears to remain the same: Tapering will start slowly in the fourth quarter and the policy will end by mid-2014. And all of this still remains contingent on economic improvements.
So this morning's reports on various economic data points can be construed as good (if you're into economic recovery) or bad (if you're more concerned with tapering).
First off, last week's jobless claims rose by 13,000 but remained near the six-year lows we saw the previous week. In fact, the rolling four-week average is equal to the levels seen last in November 2007. The continued trend is support for the labor market's moderate growth. Helping in that, factories took on new workers at a faster pace in August as new orders for products rose to a seven-month high. Overall factory activity rose 0.2 points since July to 53.9; a reading above 50 is a signal of expansion.
Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ) is the Dow's biggest loser this morning, with a 13.5% drop after its third-quarter earnings report missed expectations and CEO Meg Whitman said the company isn't expected to grow revenue in 2014 as previously expected. Most damning, however, was the "very disappointing" performance by the Enterprise Group, HP's second-largest division and a key part of Whitman's turnaround plan.
Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), on the other hand, is the Dow's biggest winner this morning, stemming from a new buy rating from Nomura Securities. The rating was supported by expectations that investors would be benefiting from shareholder activism aimed at pressuring the company to raise its dividend and increase its share buybacks.
Yahoo! is up this morning after comScore reported that it had a greater number of unique visitors in July than Internet juggernaut Google. Though the news doesn't appear to be effecting the latter company's performance today, the news does signal the first time Yahoo! has topped the rankings since 2011.