Markets Take a Breather After Three Wild Days


After three consecutive days in which the Dow Jones Industrial Average moved more than 100 points, investors seem content to let everyone to catch their breath today. As of 12:55 p.m. EST the Dow is up 16 points, or 0.12%, while the S&P 500 has improved by 0.27% and the NASDAQ has added 0.34%.

The modest moves follow a few positive economic indicators released this morning. The initial jobless claims for last week fell to 344,000 from a previous reading of 366,000. Economists were expecting claims to hit 360,000. With this new reading, the four-week average fell by 6,750 to 355,000.

Another sign that the economy is improving came from the Department of Commerce, which revised fourth-quarter GDP numbers. The previous release said the U.S. economy shrank by 0.1% during the last three months of the year, but that was changed this morning to a gain of 0.1%. With the new number, total GDP growth in 2012 was just slightly higher than 2%.

Today's Dow downers
Shares of Wal-Mart are down 0.18% after fresh internal documents painted a poor picture of the retailer that was once master of logistics. Bloomberg News has reported that the minutes from a company officers' meeting indicate that Wal-Mart is having difficulty keeping its shelves stocked. According to the minutes, CEO Bill Simon said, "We run out quickly and the new stuff doesn't come in." Later he was quoted as saying that "self-inflicted wounds" pose the "biggest risks" to the company. Wal-Mart has been attempting to fix this problem since 2011, and these minutes suggest that things have not improved with time.

Another company that can't get past a nagging problem is Boeing . CEO Ray Conner met with Japanese officials today to discuss Boeing's solution to its 787 Dreamliner battery issue. While the details of the solution Boeing proposed to Japanese regulators are yet unknown, they are likely similar to what Boeing presented to the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration. That plan called for more insulation between the battery cells, which would stop any short-circuiting from spreading to the entire unit. Conner also told reporters today that the solution was not an interim fix, but a permanent one. This may have investors concerned that if the plan is rejected by either U.S. or Japanese officials, the 787 will have to start from scratch remain grounded for an extended period of time. Shares of Boeing are down 0.6% today.

Shares of American Express are down by 0.3% in afternoon trading. It looks as if the company may lose its Supreme Court case due to lack of information. The company is fighting retailers about the enforceability of routine arbitration agreements in which the credit card company is attempting to block retailers from bringing group claims against them. A lower-level court ruled against American Express, prompting the card company to push the case to the Supreme Court. If Amex losses this battle, it could face large liabilities down the road.

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Check back daily as Matt gives the run-down on the Dow's winners and losers of the day or follow him on Twitter @mthalman5513. Fool contributor Matt Thalman has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends American Express. 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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