What Drove the Markets Today
"Selling in May" may not be a great strategy, but there's no getting around the fact that the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI) is down 5.84% this month, and the S&P 500 (INDEX: ^GSPC) is down more than 6%. Today was no different, with another 1.24% loss for the Dow, and the S&P 500 losing 1.51%. What moved markets today? Let's look at the top stories.
Top retailers ring up a small rally
Wal-Mart (NYS: WMT) released a smiling quarterly report, with earnings per share of $1.09 beating expectations of $1.04. The retailer has been hurting since allegations came out that executives had given bribes in Mexico to facilitate store growth. While the bribes themselves amounted to only $24 million, the fallout from the bribes could amount to fines, legal costs, changes in leadership, and potentially jail time. Nonetheless, today's earnings buoyed the stock up 4.21%, near prices seen before the bribery allegations came out.
Also rallying was Sears Holdings (NAS: SHLD) , with a 3.05% gain after reporting a profit of $189 million for the quarter. To bolster its income, Sears sold stores and plans to continue to streamline its operations by decreasing its ownership of Sears Canada from 95% to 51%.
Spain and Greece continue to put fear into the markets. Greece teeters on the edge of remaining in the eurozone and cobbling together a government, and the Fitch ratings agency downgraded Greek debt to the lowest possible rating without being in default. Moody's, on the other hand, downgraded 16 Spanish banks, and Spanish government debt yields have crept into territory last seen in November. The European STOXX 50 (INDEX: ^STOXX50E) lost 1.31% today.
Initial jobless claims for this week were slightly higher than expected, coming in at 370,000 over expectations of 365,000. These numbers keep telling the story of the slow economic recovery and failed to give investors any optimism for future growth.
The biggest news story this week will occur tomorrow, with Facebook's IPO. The king of social media will begin at $38 per share, giving it a valuation of about $104 billion. As Fool colleague Alex Planes writes, "to become the next Microsoft, in terms of share-price appreciation, Facebook would have to someday be worth $3 quadrillion." That's a lot of Spring Break picture albums.
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At the time this article was published Fool contributorDan Newmanholds no shares of the companies mentioned above. Follow him on Twitter, where he goes by @TMFHelloNewman.The Motley Fool owns shares of Microsoft.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended buying shares of Moody's and Microsoft, creating a diagonal call position in Wal-Mart Stores, and creating a bull call spread position in Microsoft. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days.