These Consumer Giants Bailed Out the Dow Today

Investors experienced another topsy-turvy day for the stock market again today, as the market repeated its increasingly common pattern of dropping precipitously during the early hours of trading, only to rebound by the end of the day. After failing to get back to the break-even line yesterday, the Dow Jones Industrials clawed back all of its losses, and then some, this time around, ending the day with a rise of nine points. For all the nervousness that investors felt throughout the week on comments from multiple Fed officials about the future of the U.S. economy, the net impact was tiny, with a loss of just 50 points for the week, looking insignificant compared to the magnitude of the bull market just in the past few months.

In large part, investors have consumer stocks to thank for the market's overall resiliency today. Procter & Gamble closed up by more than 4% as the consumer giant finally responded last night to calls from activist investors like Bill Ackman by replacing retiring CEO Bob McDonald with former CEO A.G. Lafley. Whether the return of the former leader to P&G's executive suite will prove successful remains to be seen, but with Lafley having presided over the company during better times, investors clearly hope his return will reverse some of the company's recent challenges.

Wal-Mart rose 1.3% in likely response to the continued weakness from rival Sears Holdings , which plunged almost 14% after a troubling quarterly report that raised concerns that Sears would have to divest itself of so much of its non-core asset base in order to raise cash, that it wouldn't have enough substance left to allow its retail business to recover. As much as I'd like to think that Wal-Mart's gains might have stemmed from its decision to stock frozen Fatburger hamburgers, what's more likely behind the jump is simply the recognition that the retail giant has built an almost insurmountable advantage in its key customer market, and neither Sears nor any other retailer is going to succeed by going head-to-head against Wal-Mart in its particular demographic.

Finally, outside the Dow, Tesla Motors continued its own consumer-driven run, rising nearly 5% and setting a new all-time high. Without any real news to support its gains, high short interest in the stock has created extremely volatile conditions, as short-sellers remain vulnerable to potential squeezes. An increase in liquidity resulting from Tesla's decision to make a secondary offering of stock should make it less prone to short-squeezes, but that might not stop the stock from continuing to rise if the company's results keep impressing shareholders.

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Fool contributor Dan Caplinger has no position in any stocks mentioned. You can follow him on Twitter @DanCaplinger. The Motley Fool recommends Procter & Gamble and Tesla Motors . The Motley Fool owns shares of Tesla Motors. 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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