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.
In a sign of just how crazy the market has become, stocks were up most of the day as traders on "Fed watch" celebrated some negative economic news. Durable-goods orders fell 7.3% in July, which isn't good for the economy, but it's a data point that may keep the Federal Reserve from slowing asset purchases too soon -- which the market loves in the short term. However, the markets have since righted themselves: The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) is down 0.29% near the end of trading, and the S&P 500 (SNPINDEX:^GSPC) has lost 0.26%.
Before reading too much into this report, let's keep in mind that last month was a five-year high point for durable-goods orders, and the data can be choppy from month to month. So the report isn't such a terrible sign for the economy. But perspective is often lost in the market's day-to-day swings.
Leading the Dow today is Home Depot (NYSE:HD), which has traders connecting a lot of dots to drive shares higher. Bad economic data would mean that long-term rates remain low, which would keep the housing market hot and demand for Home Depot's products growing -- at least, that's the theory. The reality is that the Fed will raise rates later this year, and Home Depot and others exposed to the housing market will likely see demand slow, if not shrink, as fewer borrowers enter the market. The pop is nice for shareholders but doesn't have a lot of staying power.
One of the big losers on the Dow today is AT&T (NYSE:T), down 1.2%. The company is being sued by network Al Jazeera after AT&T canceled a contract to carry Current TV, which became Al Jazeera America after Al Jazeera acquired it. This isn't likely to have a big long-term impact on AT&T, considering the small size of its video distribution business. In reality, it simply shows Al Jazeera's difficulties in breaking into the U.S. market. No need to change your investment thesis on AT&T because of the lawsuit.