U.S. stock markets opened lower today, but have moved into positive territory as we approach midday. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI) has gained a meager seven points, which equates to a paltry gain of only 0.03%. In similar fashion, both the S&P 500 and Nasdaq have also posted moderate upswings as well. Unease surrounding the central story lines driving the market over the past several weeks (i.e., Europe) has kept investors largely in check today. In fact, the market's "fear gauge" -- the VIX (INDEX: ^VIX) -- surged sharply higher, posting more than a 5% gain thus far today. Indeed, despite a somewhat placid day on the surface, there are several key story lines investors should be following today. Let's take a look.
Around the markets
Several Dow stocks enjoyed welcome news today, as a wave of upgrades and downgrades from investment banks have shares of blue chips Johnson & Johnson (NYS: JNJ) and McDonald's (NYS: MCD) up 2.4% and 1.3% higher, respectively. Johnson & Johnson's bull case was recently bolstered when it received approval to buy Synthes. The news led research departments at JPMorgan, Raymond James, and Jefferies to all upgrade the pharmaceutical powerhouse. On the other side, Goldman Sachs downgraded McDonald's from buy to neutral as gloomy same-store sales data dampened the growth prospects of the world's largest restaurant chain. Despite the bad news, McDonald's shares are up over 1% as of this writing.
In one of the most followed stories of the day, JPMorgan Chase (NYS: JPM) CEO Jamie Dimon went to Washington, D.C., to testify in front of the Senate Banking Committee regarding the firm's $2 billion in trading losses. The company's losses stemmed from European credit markets' deterioration earlier this quarter.
What it all means
The roiling of global credit markets -- the same swings that blew a hole in JPMorgan's earnings -- still loom large over markets everywhere. With so much uncertainty, safe and stable stocks like those found in the Dow are some of the better bets to buoy market turmoil. To find out about three Dow dividends investors should love, click here to access your free copy of our latest research report now.
At the time thisarticle was published Andrew Tonner held no financial position in any of the companies in this article. The Motley Fool owns shares of Johnson & Johnson and JPMorgan Chase.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended buying shares of Johnson & Johnson, Goldman Sachs, and McDonald's.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave also recommended creating a diagonal call position in Johnson & Johnson. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy. We Fools may not 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.
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