Updated from 1:25 p.m. EDT

Common Stock as Modern Art

This past weekend I was working up a crossword puzzle from one of those books that collects the best offerings from the Sunday New York Times of the past. One of the clues was "Dada artist." Three letters.

Dow, you might be thinking? Hardly.

Now, you're probably already wondering if any of this has a point. It does. It's that I want you to know I'm cultured. One paragraph in and I'm referencing early 20th century protest art and the smartest, most relevant, indeed most important, publication of this or any generation. Any other questions?

The truth is I don't even do that many crossword puzzles, I don't study art history in my spare time, and as for the paper mentioned above, I'm sometimes vaguely aware of a copy sitting on the desk of one of my colleagues. I think I can justify what you've already read, though. So here goes.

While I'm not an expert on Dada, the found objects and such, what I do know never interested me much. I used to have similar feelings toward abstract expressionism. But a few years ago, when I was in college, I saw some footage of Jackson Pollock painting, and all that changed. Before, it hadn't been obvious to me why I should care about "Full Fathom Five" or "Number 10." Not for me, I decided.

Then something unexpected happened. After watching this film, I found that I had in just a few short minutes developed a new appreciation for Pollock's work. I couldn't believe it, and at first I couldn't explain it. Finally it hit me. What changed was this: It was the process, not the finished item, that mattered. The journey, that's what's important.

If that were true for his painting, couldn't it hold for something much greater? Our lives even. What is art if not a window into each of us? Can't we all see a little bit of ourselves reflected in the carefully planned paint-drippings of a man from Wyoming who drank too much?

Which brings us back to the stock market. I have said repeatedly of late that the first five and a half hours of the trading session are often just a preliminary exercise. The final hour is when things really count.

I'm starting to think that I've been approaching this all wrong. While I'm worrying about where we end up, and you probably are too, perhaps we should be instead making the most of our travels. I'm going to try to do that, starting today. Let the indices close where they may. Along the way we'll come up with reasons, some wrong, others right, about why whatever happens, happens. No matter what, the trip will be its own reward.

That's out of the way, so let's return to the real world, in so far as Wall Street qualifies as the real world. We had another mixed bag. JPMorgan Chase ( JPM) had a strong profit, but we had a mall operator file for bankruptcy. Jobless claims fell, and so did housing starts.

Ultimately, the Dow closed Thursday up 95.81 points, or 1.2%, at 8125.43. (I hope you didn't think I wasn't going to tell you.) Only a handful of the stocks fell, with Merck ( MRK) the worst on a percentage basis, down 1.5% at $25.85. Hewlett-Packard ( HPQ) was the best performer, up 5% to $36.60, followed by Microsoft ( MSFT), better by 4.9% to $19.76.

Disney ( DIS) added nearly 4% to $20.51.

Citigroup ( C), a day before its quarterly report, rose 4 cents, or 1%, to $4.01. General Electric ( GE), also set to report Friday, gained 3.7% to $12.27.

As for that Dada artist? I think it was Arp.

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