Dow Hits Another Record Despite Retailers' Christmas Warning

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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.

Stocks hit another record high as investors reacted positively to Fed chair nominee Janet Yellen's confirmation hearing today. As expected, Yellen stood behind the loose monetary policies of the Bernanke regime and said they should continue until the economy recovers. She also conceded that the current bond-buying program could not go on forever, but also dismissed questions from senators suggesting that the stimulus program could be causing an asset bubble, explaining that the inflation rate is still low.

By the end of the session, both the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 were within striking distance of new milestones at 16,000 and 1,800, respectively. For the day, the blue chips finished up 0.4%, while the S&P moved up 0.5%.

Wal-Mart , the world's largest retailer turned in a middling earnings report this morning, with shares finishing up 0.2% after a slow start. The retail giant beat earnings estimates by a penny with a per-share profit of $1.14, but revenue missed, inching up 1.6% to $114.9 billion against the consensus at $116.4 billion. Same-store sales at all U.S. stores fell 0.1%, but Wal-Mart's smaller-format neighborhood market store were a bright spot as comps increased 3.4%. The chain also announced "aggressive plans to help customers enjoy the holiday season," rolling out a number of strategies including price matching, layaway, and low prices on a holiday items. Still, fourth-quarter adjusted earnings-per-share guidance of $1.60-$1.70 was off the mark as analysts had projected a per-share profit of $1.69.

Elsewhere in the big-box sector, Kohl's shares tumbled 8% after the retailer cut its holiday outlook. Same-store sales fell 1.6% in the third quarter as EPS slipped from $0.91 a year ago to $0.81, missing estimates of $0.86. It also lowered its full-year EPS forecast to $4.08-$4.23, while analysts had been eyeing the top end at $4.23 for the year. Kohl's sales have flatlined in recent years as the company has moved from national brands, and the retailer seems to have consequently lost its identity. Today's results indicate that any turnaround is still a ways away.

Finally, Nordstrom shares were down 1.2% after hours after the high-end retailer said per-share profits fell from $0.71 a year ago to $0.69, but that still beat estimates of $0.66. Companywide same-store sales, which includes the online channel, increased 0.1%, but were much stronger at Nordstrom Rack, its discount chain, than at its full-line stores. The company also lifted its full-year EPS range to $3.65-$3.70, in line with estimates at $3.68, though revenue guidance was off slightly.

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