Dow Holds the Line With Fed in Focus

Dow Holds the Line With Fed in Focus

Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over daily movements, we do like to keep an eye on market changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average bounced back after a two-day slide today, as Wall Street's attention finally shifted away from the government shutdown. President Obama this afternoon nominated Federal Reserve Vice Chairwoman Janet Yellen to serve as the central bank's next chief, and assuming she gets confirmed by the Senate, she would take over in January once current Chairman Ben Bernanke's term ends. Yellen is widely seen as favoring proactive policies such as Bernanke's recent quantitative easing program. She believes the Fed should be a vehicle for fighting unemployment and said at the White House conference that she would guide the institution to promote maximum employment, stable prices, and a sound financial system. Considering the market has reacted well to Bernanke's policies, Yellen's approach should win favor from investors as well. By the end of the session, the blue chips were up 26 points, or 0.2%.

Yellen's nomination wasn't the only news out of the Fed today. Investors also absorbed the minutes of the recent Open Market Committee in September that surprised the market by maintaining the $85 billion monthly bond-buying program. The notes revealed a high degree of initial disagreement over the decision, though the group decided to adopt a wait-and-see approach based on weak employment data and the potential fiscal crisis down the pike. With that fiscal crisis now full-blown, it seems even less likely that the committee will move to taper in its meeting three weeks from now.

AT&T jumped 1.9% after it announced that it would partner with General Electric to add wireless capabilities to GE products including electrical vehicle chargers, lighting, and engines. AT&T's machine-to-machine segment, or M2M, saw a 38% increase in customers in the past year, and the area could represent a needed growth engine for telecoms at a time when the smartphone market has reached maturity.

Meanwhile, Merck was at the bottom of the pile today, falling 1% after Credit Suisse initiated coverage with a neutral rating and a middling synopsis of the drug-maker's prospects. The Swiss bank noted that Merck's "top-line growth is flat in light of challenges faced by several core franchises" but gave rival Pfizer an "outperform" rating, touting its "emerging specialty pipeline" and shareholder-friendly cash management.

Finally, Wal-Mart announced that it will disband its plan to open stores in India. The retailer severed ties with its joint-venture partner Bharti after it found Indian laws forcing foreign retailers to buy 30% of their goods from small and mid-sized companies based in India to be too restrictive. Wal-Mart will hold on to a group of wholesale stores, maintaining some presence in the country and perhaps indicating the company could make a renewed push into retail should the laws change. Shares finished up 0.1%.

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