Dow Caps Off Strong Week With a Solid Finish

Stocks finished out a solid week today as the S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average both closed at record highs again. There were no major events pushing markets higher as stocks were more or less flat until late in the session. Investors have been enthused recently by strong earnings reports, economic data, and signaling from the Fed that its monetary stimulus will continue. In a speech today at the Chicago Federal Reserve, Chairman Ben Bernanke said that the recovery still has a way to go, indicating that stimulus measures should stay in place in the near term. For the day, the blue chips gained 36 points, or 0.2%.

Hewlett-Packard , despite no big news, led all Dow stocks today, jumping 1.7%. Rival Dell, however, was back in the headlines as activist investor Carl Icahn made the case for his bid to take the No. 3 PC maker private. Since HP and Dell both operate in the same declining industry, any belief that one company's holding unlocked value is likely to rub off on the other. After hours, a judge ruled that the company must defend itself in a lawsuit alleging that former management had defrauded shareholders. Its shares, however, remained unmoved.

Caterpillar was the worst performer out of the 30 Dow components, falling 1.5%. Talks between the construction equipment maker and a Milwaukee union fell apart after workers rejected a new contract that would have frozen wages for current employees and paid new employees a lower wage. Shares of Caterpillar had increased more than 10% in the last three weeks so the stock may just be cooling off after its bullish run.

JPMorgan Chase shares were essentially flat, finishing down 0.2%, but the board of directors weighed in on the ongoing debate over CEO/Chairman Jamie Dimon's dual role, with two members arguing in a letter against proxy firms that have insisted that Dimon give up the chairmanship. Among other things, the directors said splitting the roles "could be disruptive to the company and is not in shareholders' best interests." The letter also said that the board unanimously agrees that Dimon should stay on in both roles.

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