Today's Dow: Pops and Drops


It's Friday afternoon on Wall Street, and investors seem content with their holdings going into the three-day weekend. With the markets closed on Monday due to the Presidents Day holiday, investors will have one more action-free day to rest and review their current positions before the markets open on Tuesday for a four-day trading week. This past week saw a number of large acquisitions and headline news stories, of which Berkshire Hathaway's joint purchase of Heinz was clearly the top dog.

But today the big economic data came from the University of Michigan. The preliminary consumer sentiment numbers for February were released today, showing that the index jumped from 73.8 in January to 76.3. Economists had only been forecasting an increase of one point, so the higher data point was welcome news. The report was not all positive; one negative aspect was that Americans are becoming more concerned about inflation as they see their take-home incomes remain stagnant.

As of 2:25 p.m. EST, the major indexes have taken moderate losses. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 0.35%, the S&P 500 is down 0.33%, and the NASDAQ has dropped 0.36%. The Dow may be going nowhere fast, but a few of its 30 components are making big moves.

Both of the Dow's oil components are down after the price of crude dropped almost 2% today. Chevron is fairing worse as its shares drop 1.3%, while ExxonMobil has only lost 0.7% of its value.

Another losing industry today is the banking sector. JPMorgan Chase is down 1.1%, and Bank of America has lost 1%. My Fool colleague John Maxfield recently pointed out the biggest threat to B of A, which anyone who is considering becoming a shareholder must check out. John details the problems the bank must work out and shows how its liabilities may not all be behind it. While JPMorgan may not have the same issues as B of A, it has certainly dealt with some doozies this past year. The London Whale problem not only cost the company more than $6 billion dollars but highlighted the magnitude of the risk these banks take on.

The Dow's big winner today is Pfizer , whose shares are up just more than 0.7%. The stock has received a few new "buy" ratings since it split off its former animal health business Zoetis, which hit the public market two weeks ago, and those rating changes are likely the cause for today's rise. Year to date, the stock is up 9%, while the Dow has increased by "only" 6.6%. I recently highlighted why Pfizer is a great company but not one you should be invested in today. Check out why I felt that way by clicking here.

More Foolish insight
With big finance firms still trading at deep discounts to their historic norms, investors everywhere are wondering whether this is the new normal or if finance stocks are a screaming buy today. The answer depends on the company, so to help figure out whether JPMorgan is a buy today, I invite you to read our premium research report on the company today. Click here now for instant access!

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Fool contributor Matt Thalman owns shares of Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase & Co. Follow Matt on Twitter @mthalman5513. The Motley Fool owns shares of Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase & Co. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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