The Dow is Off to a Sluggish Start After its Three-Day Weekend

Most of the excitement in American markets is concentrated in just a few stocks this morning.

Alex Planes
Alex Planes
Apr 21, 2014 at 12:10PM

American markets are stumbling out of a three-day weekend. Many market participants have only recently emerged from one of the most calorie-intensive celebrations of the year, and many more remain on hiatus in pleasant climes or with pleasant company. Major indices reflect that general sense of indifference, as earnings season is still barely under way on a day with no real macroeconomic news.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) bounced between breakeven and a gain of roughly 0.3% in early trading, and it held a 0.2% gain at lunchtime. The S&P 500 (SNPINDEX:^GSPC) has traded in the same range, and it also clung to a 0.2% gain shortly after noon EDT.

Few components on either index have put together any outsized gains or losses -- Home Depot (NYSE:HD) and IBM (NYSE: IBM) are each pacing the Dow with roughly equal 1% pops, while Walt Disney (NYSE: DIS) was the Dow's worst performer with a modest 1.2% decline. The S&P's largest gainer is $12 billion gold producer Newmont Mining (NYSE:NEM), whose 6.2% pop was nearly double that of the 500-component index's second-best stock this morning. Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) led the S&P's large caps with a 1.7% pop, and no large-cap S&P 500 component has suffered a similar or greater decline. The worst big stock on the S&P 500 was Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) (NASDAQ: GOOGL), which lost 1.1% as investors continue to worry about the search giant's slowing momentum.

IBM's bounce this morning seems to be nothing more than a snapback from its drop on Thursday following disappointing earnings. Home Depot's pop appears to be the result of positive coverage in Barron's, which estimated a further 25% upside thanks to the ongoing strengthening of the American housing market.

Kalgoorlie open pit gold mine, Australia.
Source: Brian Voon Yee Yap via Wikimedia Commons.

Newmont is up after its attempted merger with Barrick Gold (NYSE: ABX) apparently fell apart, which is an unusual response, but perhaps not unexpected in this particular case. The two gold miners have entered merger talks several times before, and the door remains open to an eventual combination, which could be more worthwhile in the future if (or when) gold prices rebound from a miserable 2013 slide.

Facebook's gain is tied to its upcoming earnings report, as well as news that the company will soon roll out its own mobile advertising network, which would give it a valuable foothold in a space long dominated by Google and a few other mobile-first advertising companies that have been scrabbling for second place behind Big G. Few companies have the heft to challenge Google's mobile ad dominance, but Facebook undoubtedly belongs in that rare crowd. A successful rollout would give the social network a more diversified revenue stream -- even if you are the world's most popular website, there are millions of other sites out there that offer valuable opportunities for advertising. Google realized this years ago, but Facebook could still catch up if it plays its cards right.