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.
The jobs market dominated financial news this past week. On Wednesday, ADP's report on private-sector job growth for December came in at 238,000, beating economists' expectations of 200,000. OnThursday, the weekly jobless-claims report tallied 330,000, a figure just 1,000 below the consensus estimates. And on Friday, the most important Labor Department report for December came in at only 74,000 new jobs, well below the 200,000 the professionals were expecting. The Labor Department also reported on Friday that the unemployment rate fell from 7% to 6.7% in December, after the labor force participation rate dropped from 63% to 62.8%.
These figures indicate that the economy may not be as strong as many had hoped and that business growth may continue to sluggishly move along. The one bit of good news from Friday's report was that Treasury bond yields fell on the news, as investors bet that the Federal Reserve will hold interest rates down for a longer time than previously believed. The weaker rates helped housing stocks rally, but the combined news throughout the week was too much for the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) to overcome. The blue-chip index closed the week down 32 points, or 0.2%, and now rests at 16,437. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq, on the other hand, did manage to finish the week higher, as they gained 0.6% and 1.03%, respectively, over the past five trading days.
Before we get to the Dow's biggest losers, let's look at its top performer, Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ), which rose 3.14% this week after two different analysts upgraded the stock. RBC Capital and Argus both believe the company's pharmaceutical unit will help the company in the coming years. Many investors have been focusing on the health-care industry as a great place to make money, since the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate opens the potential for bigger profits for insurance companies, hospitals, medical-device manufacturers, and the pharmaceutical industry. Whether it all plays out that way remains to be seen, but J&J shareholders aren't complaining today.
Last week's big losers
ExxonMobil was the biggest Dow loser two weeks ago, after shedding 1.97% of its value. This week the oil and gas company rose 1.01%, while fellow Dow energy play Chevron (NYSE:CVX) was the index's second biggest decliner, losing 2.68%. Preliminary earnings results came out on Friday, and Chevron said it expected its fourth-quarter earnings to be comparable with year-ago results. But while net oil-equivalent production was slightly lower for the quarter, that's been offset by higher natural gas prices over the past few months. So some of the news seemed decent, but the report of flat earnings was probably the biggest reason shares fell.
The Dow's third-place finisher this week was Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), whose shares fell 2.35%, even despite a 1.44% gain on Friday. Microsoft's week got off to a bad start, when The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday that both Bill Gates and current CEO Steve Ballmer will remain on the company's board of directors after Ballmer is replaced. There's concern that their continued presence could hamper a new CEO's independence. Shares fell 2.11% on Monday, followed by a 1.6% drop on Wednesday, after Ford CEO Alan Mulally finally made it public that he won't pursue the Microsoft job. His announcement ended months of speculation about whether he was Microsoft's top choice. So the CEO drama continues, but investors focused on the long term should just ride this out.
And finally, the Dow's worst-performing component of the week was AT&T (NYSE:T). Most of its 3.39% drop came on Thursday, following an announcement the night before that T-Mobile will pay the early termination fees of AT&T and Verizon customers. This is just another in T-Mobile's long list of attacks on its competitors over the past few months, as the smaller carrier tries to draw in customers and grow the business.
The other Dow losers this week:
- 3M, down 1.64%
- American Express, down 1.32%
- DuPont, down 0.37%
- General Electric, down 1.89%
- Intel, down 0.97%
- JPMorgan Chase, down 0.29%
- McDonald's, down 0.76%
- Nike, down 1.42%
- Procter & Gamble, down 0.18%
- Coca-Cola, down 0.81%
- Travelers, down 1.87%
- United Technologies, down 0.53%
- Verizon, down 1.38%
- Visa, down 0.01%
- Wal-Mart, down 0.77%
- Walt Disney, down 0.94%