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 spending most of the day trading modestly higher, the stock market finally gave way to pessimism and uncertainty late in the afternoon, with a steep drop in the final hour of the day that sent the Dow Jones Industrials (DJINDICES:^DJI) to a loss of 64 points. The broader market finished with a similar loss of not quite half a percent, as investors seemed to change their minds mid-day whether they should take troubling economic data on durable goods orders as a bullish sign that the Fed might leave its quantitative easing program in place longer or as a bearish sign that the economy isn't improving as quickly as the market's advance so far in 2013 would suggest.
Among Dow stocks, only one posted a strong advance. Home Depot (NYSE:HD) rose more than 2% in what Fool contributor Daniel Miller called a delayed reaction to its positive earnings report last week. Home Depot has fallen substantially so far in August as investors have watched interest rates climb and inferred that the housing market could face a big headwind from higher mortgage costs, so any hint of policy changes that could result in rates topping out would be good for the home-improvement retailer.
Consumer favorite McDonald's (NYSE:MCD) put in a very small gain of 0.2%. News that the fast-food chain will add chicken wings to its menu in the U.S. is just the latest move that the company has made to try to bolster domestic sales. But McDonald's has traditionally fared relatively well in weak economic environments, as one of the best-performing stocks during the 2008 bear market. If the economy does start to falter, McDonald's might once again outperform.
Finally, two of the Dow's more industrially oriented stocks posted small gains, with Boeing (NYSE:BA) and Alcoa (NYSE:AA) climbing about 0.1% each. For Boeing, news that the company received an order for six Dreamliner aircraft from Xiamen Airlines helped demonstrate once again the aerospace giant's ability to attract demand despite persistent faults that have arisen from the aircraft. Meanwhile, for Alcoa, a recovery generally in the commodities sector might be behind the interest in the aluminum maker. Moreover, if weak domestic economic reports lead investors to focus less on the U.S. economy and more on global markets that have recently struggled, then it could bode better for Alcoa and its peers in the aluminum space, all of which rely on worldwide demand to keep prices up and profits high.
Fool contributor Dan Caplinger has no position in any stocks mentioned. You can follow him on Twitter @DanCaplinger. The Motley Fool recommends Home Depot. It recommends and owns shares of McDonald's. 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.