6 Stocks That Moved the Market on Thursday

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Stocks were mixed on Thursday, with the S&P 500 and the Dow fighting between positive and negative territory. As the Dow was hardly changed, 24/7 Wall St. decided to focus the stocks that moved the market on the key S&P 500 Index stocks. one was jettisoned from the index, but many still consider it a key stock. This is all ahead of what could be a major market-moving unemployment report on Friday. These six stocks may have helped the S&P avoid a worse day.

These are the “unofficial” closing bell levels for the stock market on Thursday right at the 4PM bell:

Dow/DJIA  16,445.91; -16.83 or -0.10%

S&P 500 1,838.13; +0.64 or 0.03%

Macy’s Inc. (NYSE: M) may not be a favorite among employees after news that it was laying off 2,500 workers and shutting five stores, but shares ended up at a new high after the company’s earnings guidance. Macy’s shares were trading up in the final minutes of the trading day.

United Continental Holdings (NYSE: UAL) was the airline leader of the day with big gains. The company’s passenger miles rose by 4.1% in December and its load factor was up 3 points to 85.4%. The airline giant’s shares were up 6.8% at $43.81 late in the trading session.

J. C. Penney Company, Inc. (NYSE: JCP) may be an index departure stock now, but if this crummy turnaround retailing stock can get a boost from an upgrade then any other one can too. Piper Jaffray raised the retailer to Overweight with an $11 price target, nearly an unimaginable move based upon recent trends. Shares were up over 3.6% at $$7.64 in the final seconds of the day.

Walgreen Co. (NYSE: WAG) traded higher after its annual shareholder meeting discussed the firm’s growth strategies for the years ahead. Shares were trading higher by over 3% at $61.20 in the final seconds of trading. What stood out even more than the unexpected gain was that Walgreen’s share trading volume was nearly three-times the 5.2 million shares that trade on an average day.

Aetna Inc. (NYSE: AET) was the leader among the large insurance stocks on Thursday. Credit Suisse raised the rating to Outperform from Neutral. The upgrade sent shares to an all-time high because the $83 price target is over 10% higher than the street consensus price target of about $74.50. This is now a street high price target. Aetna shares were up by 3.75% at $71.73 right before the close.

Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F) surged by more than 2% on news that it was lifting its dividend payout rate by 25%. This takes Ford’s dividend yield to well above 3%, trumping GM as it does not even have its dividend reinstated yet. Ford shares were riding the heels of the news that Alan Mulally would be staying on this year as well. Ford shares were up 2.1% at $15.88 in active volume right before the close.

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