Stocks gyrated on Monday before closing slightly lower on little volume, amid mixed reports on the housing market, construction, and manufacturing data.

On Tuesday, the Dow made history. Plunging oil prices helped send the index to a new all-time high of 11,727.34.

That new high didn't last long in the record books. The Dow anted up fresh highs the following two days. On Wednesday, the Dow closed up over 123 points. The rally was boosted by a weak services sector report and remarks by Fed Chief Bernanke in which he cited a "substantial correction in the housing market," interpreted to mean that future cuts may come. Strong retail reports helped the market ignore higher oil prices and climb a bit further on Thursday, to a new closing high of 11,866.69.

Investors' luck ran out on Friday when a weaker-than-expected employment report, profit taking, and a decline in General Motors combined to weigh the indices down modestly.

The stock market will remain open Monday during the Columbus Day holiday, but light volume is expected. Economic reports scheduled for release include wholesale trade tomorrow, the release of the FOMC minutes from September on Wednesday, the international trade balance and economic Beige Book data on Thursday, followed by import and export prices, retail sales, consumer sentiment, and business inventories on Friday.

Corporations scheduled to release earnings include Alcoa and Genentech tomorrow, and Gannett, Lam Research, and Yum! Brands on Wednesday. We'll hear from Cargill, Costco, Domino's Pizza, Genzyme, PepsiCo, and Safeway on Thursday, and General Electric on Friday.

Stay market-tuned and Foolish!

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Foolish Quiz

1. Many market pundits cite this factor as the underlying reason for the Dow's climb:
(a) interest rates
(b) oil prices
(c) profits

2. True or false: Caterpillar (NYSE:CAT) can claim credit for supporting the Dow's climb on Thursday.

3. This company reported disappointing earnings:
(a) Goodyear
(b) Pepsi Bottling (NYSE:PBG)
(c) Quest Diagnostic (NYSE:DGX)

4. Which discount retailer posted stronger same-store sales -- Target (NYSE:TGT) or Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT)?

5. This company announced a merger agreement:
(a) General Motors
(b) Harrah's
(c) Imclone
(d) Myogen

6. This Big Three automaker drove away with increased sales last month:
(a) DaimlerChrysler
(b) Ford
(c) General Motors

7. This retailer posted the strongest same-store sales last month:
(a) Abercrombie & Fitch
(b) bebe
(c) Children's Place
(d) Guess

8. True or false: The Dow typically provides a positive return in October.

9. True or false: Congress successfully cleaned up its behavior last week.

10. Where would you have made more money so far this year -- investing in tech stocks or gaming stocks?


1. (c). While oil and interest rates certainly factor into a corporation's bottom line, a steady 15-quarter growth of double-digit earnings has provided cash for businesses to expand, issue dividends, and buy back shares.

2. True. The industrial manufacturer helped lift the Dow Jones industrials to its newest high when it rose 4.1%, thanks to a report from Merrill Lynch citing it as one of the 10 domestic companies most likely to benefit from foreign economic growth.

3. (b). None of these companies reported good news last week, but only one related to earnings. On Tuesday, Pepsi Bottling reported a slightly higher quarterly profit, but confirmed a disappointing full-year estimate. Shares fizzled 7%, to their lowest level in several months.

Investors in Quest were pricked on Tuesday when UnitedHealth Group (NYSE:UNH) plucked its contract with the lab following disagreements over UNH's requested price cuts, and instead awarded an exclusive 10-year contract to rival Lab Corp (NYSE:LH). The business accounted for approximately 7% of the company's revenues. Shares of Quest fell 17.9%, while those of Lab Corp rose 2.1%.

A strike declared by the United Steelworkers on Thursday against 16 Goodyear plant locations in the U.S. and Canada put a nail in the tiremaker's shares, sending them down 0.3%. The company said it's willing to continue negotiations and have implemented contingency plans.

4. Target. Target announced a 6.7% increase in same-store sales, citing favorable weather, while those at rival Wal-Mart advanced only a 1.3% increase. Wal-Mart said it faced a tough comparison to the prior year run-up in sales because of the Gulf Coast storms.

5. (d). On Monday, Myogen made known that Gilead Sciences agreed to purchase the biotech in a $2.5 billion transaction. Shares of Myogen jumped 47%, while those of Gilead declined 6.5%.

Hoorays were also in order for Harrah's on Monday after it received a $15.1 billion offer from private equity firms Texas Pacific Group and Apollo Management. Shares of Harrah's rose 14%. Other casino stocks also celebrated, with MGM Mirage gaining 3%, Station Casinos rising 3.9%, and Penn National Gaming winning 2%.

Sitting out this round of gamesmanship, ImClone disclosed on Tuesday that it had turned down a deal last month when shareholder Carl Icahn had refused to support a $36 per-share offer made by a major international pharmaceutical company. Shares reacted by climbing 7.9% higher.

General Motors also stayed on the sidelines, making known on Wednesday that it was putting the brakes on discussions with Nissan and Renault for a potential business arrangement, as the sides were too far apart. Shares of GM fell 0.5% that day and dropped 6.3% on Friday, when Kirk Kerkorian said he would not purchase any additional shares.

6. (b). Ford drove off the winner among this group as its U.S. sales increased 4.7% last month. General Motors suffered a 3.1% decline and lowered North American production targets, while Chrysler's sales fell 3.8%. Toyota continued to race ahead, reporting a 25% growth in sales -- its best September on record.

7. (c). Teens may not have been shopping for back to school attire last month at Wal-Mart, but they were ringing the register at specialty teen retailers. Same-store sales at Abercrombie & Fitch surged 10%, double the expected figure. bebe picked up 15.3%, and Guess rang up 11.3% increases, both better than expected. Younger siblings must have been watching, because same-store sales at Children's Place jumped 20%, much stronger than anticipated, beating their brothers' and sisters' spending habits.

8. True. Despite October's lousy reputation, The Wall Street Journal reports that since 1896, the Dow has retuned 0.3% on average for this month.

9. False. No matter which side of the aisle you prefer, you have to believe that our leaders on the Hill have some work yet to do to sort out their own behavior. They did, however, take aim at others' activities when they passed anti-online gambling legislation late the previous Friday. The bill prohibits the use of credit cards, checks, and electronic funds transfers to settle gambling activity. Shares of gaming software developer CryptoLogic (NASDAQ:CRYP) lost 18%, and gaming payments processor Optimal stumbled 25%.

10. Gaming. The Dow Jones U.S. Gambling Index has risen 24.5% so far this year, beating the major indices. Still, some folks say that playing the stock market is nothing more than gambling.

8-10 correct: Foolishly impressive.
6-7 correct: Almost Foolish.
1-5 correct: OK, but just barely.
0 correct: Really?! Keep reading the Fool, and watch your scores improve!

Wal-Mart is a Motley Fool Inside Value pick. bebe, Costco, UnitedHealth Group, and Lab Corp are Motley Fool Stock Advisor selections. CryptoLogic is a Motley Fool Hidden Gems recommendation. Whatever your investing style, the Fool has a newsletter for you.

Fool contributor S.J. Caplan is a former vice president and assistant general counsel of Goldman Sachs and former vice president and derivative finance specialist at Lehman Brother. She serves as an arbitrator for the New York Stock Exchange and the NASD. The Fool has a disclosure policy.