Stock Market Today: Stocks Close Mixed on Muddled Earnings and Econ Data

Conflicting earnings news and a strong headline GDP report that was weak under the hood made for a turbulent session.

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(Image credit: Getty Images)

Stocks closed mixed Thursday in a seesaw session driven by conflicting corporate earnings reports and a cloudy picture on the health of the U.S. economy.

Strong earnings from Caterpillar (CAT, +7.8%) helped the Dow Jones Industrial Average end the day in the green, rising 0.6% to close at 32,036. But a disappointing revenue forecast from Facebook parent Meta Platforms (META, -24.6%) after Wednesday's close weighed on the Nasdaq Composite. The tech-heavy index slumped 1.6% to finish at 10,792. The broader S&P 500, meanwhile, somewhat split the difference, closing off 0.6% at 3,807. 

Markets got an early lift from a better-than-expected reading on third-quarter gross domestic product. The U.S. economy rebounded after two consecutive quarters of contraction to grow at an annual rate of 2.6% in Q3. That topped economists' estimates for annualized growth of 2.4%. 

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The optimism was short-lived, however, as underlying components of the GDP report suggested that an economic slowdown remains the most likely scenario in 2023. 

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The Best Dividend Stocks You Can Count On

Thursday's session was full of twists and turns, and that should remind investors that heightened volatility remains the order of the day. Stocks had been grinding higher since mid-October on encouraging third-quarter earnings reports. Given that this was supposed to be the worst earnings season since the height of COVID-19 lockdowns, the market's bullishness over reports that turned out brighter than forecast made sense. But lackluster results from mega-cap technology companies Google parent Alphabet (GOOGL) and cloud-computing giant Microsoft (MSFT) earlier this week put an end to the good feelings. Meta Platforms only added to the dour mood. With (AMZN) and Apple (AAPL) set to report after Thursday's closing bell, tomorrow's session could be a real doozy.

Happily, investors looking to smooth out their returns in turbulent times have a number of options. Low-volatility exchange-traded funds are a cheap and easy way to own a diversified portfolio of stocks that tend to hold up better when the market is selling off. Dividend payers in defensive sectors, such as the best consumer staples stocks or the best Dow dividend stocks, will also stand patient investors in good stead. Folks who can maintain truly long horizons can't go wrong with the creme de la creme of dividend growth stocks. The S&P 500 Dividend Aristocrats is an index of companies that have raised their payouts for at least 25 consecutive years. Heck, two of the components extended their streaks in just the past couple of days. Have a look at the 65 best dividend stocks you can count on for reliable and rising dividends.

Dan Burrows
Senior Investing Writer,

Dan Burrows is Kiplinger's senior investing writer, having joined the august publication full time in 2016.

A long-time financial journalist, Dan is a veteran of SmartMoney, MarketWatch, CBS MoneyWatch, InvestorPlace and DailyFinance. He has written for The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Consumer Reports, Senior Executive and Boston magazine, and his stories have appeared in the New York Daily News, the San Jose Mercury News and Investor's Business Daily, among other publications. As a senior writer at AOL's DailyFinance, Dan reported market news from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange and hosted a weekly video segment on equities.

Once upon a time – before his days as a financial reporter and assistant financial editor at legendary fashion trade paper Women's Wear Daily – Dan worked for Spy magazine, scribbled away at Time Inc. and contributed to Maxim magazine back when lad mags were a thing. He's also written for Esquire magazine's Dubious Achievements Awards.

In his current role at Kiplinger, Dan writes about equities, fixed income, currencies, commodities, funds, macroeconomics, demographics, real estate, cost of living indexes and more.

Dan holds a bachelor's degree from Oberlin College and a master's degree from Columbia University.

Disclosure: Dan does not trade stocks or other securities. Rather, he dollar-cost averages into cheap funds and index funds and holds them forever in tax-advantaged accounts.