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.
Yesterday, markets were inundated with data supporting the view that a healthy recovery is under way. The services sector showed tremendous growth in August, jobless claims reached multiyear lows, and the economy continued to add private sector jobs. Today's official payrolls number from Labor Department painted a much bleaker picture.
While 169,000 jobs were created in August, that number trailed expectations, which called for a jump of about 180,000. Not only did August disappoint, but the previously reported numbers for the prior two months were trimmed by more than 70,000 in total. You'd think a gut-wrenching reality check like this would send stocks spiraling, but the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) shed just 14 points, or 0.1%, ending at 14,922.
We often forget that Wall Street's performance doesn't go hand in hand with the financial prospects of the average American. Even with a sluggish employment landscape, individual companies can stubbornly thrive. Hewlett-Packard's (NYSE:HPQ) stock, for instance, added 1.4% today, rising in the face of Friday's weak numbers. A judge gave HP until mid-January to review shareholder claims of securities fraud in the company's disastrous 2010 Autonomy acquisition, further delaying a potentially large corporate payout.
Similarly, JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM) rose 0.9% after bullish company-specific developments of its own. Johnson & Johnson is planning to sell its Ortho Clinical Diagnostics business, and the health-care giant chose JPMorgan to arrange the sale, according to Reuters sources. Ortho boasts around $2 billion in annual revenue, and could go for as much as $5 billion, the report said. The sale would generate healthy fees for the bank, while boosting JPMorgan's status as a go-to broker for major deals. The health of Main Street is an afterthought for Wall Street with moola like that on the horizon.
In contrast, Cisco Systems (NASDAQ:CSCO) lost 0.6% today, as investors in the tech company read between the lines of today's jobs report. While August's 7.3% unemployment rate is a four-year low, the labor force participation rate sank to its lowest level since 1978. With discouraged Americans increasingly giving up on the job hunt, employers like Cisco have a smaller pool of qualified applicants to choose from.
Lastly, chemicals giant DuPont (NYSE:DD) shed 0.9%, as the materials sector was the worst performer in the markets on Friday. The stock has shown a recent tendency to rise and fall with the broader market, but in a more exaggerated fashion: DuPont has nearly doubled the Dow's gains this year. This is no reason to expect future outperformance, but the company has already nearly matched its 2012 profits in the first two quarters of 2013, so its soaring price isn't without warrant.
The Motley Fool recommends Cisco Systems and Johnson & Johnson. The Motley Fool owns shares of Johnson & Johnson and JPMorgan Chase & Co.. 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.