One thing investors never like is uncertainty, and as it became increasingly evident over the weekend that the U.S. government probably won't be able to avoid a shutdown as of midnight tonight, the stock market sank. The Dow Jones Industrials (DJINDICES:^DJI) finished the day down almost 129 points, while broader markets fell a bit less dramatically on a percentage basis.
Alone among Dow stocks to post even the tiniest of gains today were Cisco Systems (NASDAQ:CSCO) and Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT). Cisco, which rose almost half a percent, gained as analysts seemed to take the opposite view from the pessimistic comments that CEO John Chambers made last week. Chambers' approach is interesting in that by setting expectations low, it takes less for the company to surpass them. Still, Cisco eventually will have to demonstrate its ability to produce objectively strong results rather than simply doing better than a dour forecast from its chief executive.
For Microsoft, which rose just a single penny, investors appear increasingly hopeful that the company will rediscover a meaningful strategic direction after finding a new CEO. As speculation rises about a strong potential turnaround candidate taking the helm, Microsoft should also benefit by moving beyond unsuccessful past opportunities and focusing on its best ideas forward.
Outside the Dow, solar stocks were a source of winners, with Trina Solar (NYSE:TSL) and Yingli Green Energy (NYSE:YGE) both extending their gains from Friday. Arguments that Chinese demand is improving helped send the two stocks up double-digit percentages on Friday. But the longer-term question is still whether the companies can reach sustained profitability, because without long-term business success, any share-price gains from Yingli or Trina will likely prove to be temporary.