The Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI ) rose 28 points (0.22%) today after a slew of economic reports showed fewer unemployment claims, a slight uptick in personal income, and under-control inflation amidst a drop-off in construction spending and disappointing manufacturing growth.
Naturally, construction equipment giant Caterpillar (NYSE: CAT ) , which is also struggling to handle the probably temporary spike in commodity prices, fell 0.7%.
Meanwhile, bank stocks were the strongest performers, with JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM ) jumping 2.9% and Bank of America (NYSE: BAC ) rising 1.9%. Banks are in an interesting place right now: One of the risks still hanging over the sector is weak loan growth. Having been burned by the bursting of the housing bubble, their balance sheets under pressure, so many homes underwater, and the economic recovery progressing slowly, banks are either reluctant to lend or can't find great loaning opportunities. Add to that declining long-term rates, which crimps interest income, and the sector is arguably between a rock and a hard place. However, the slightly-than-better economic news, combined with the Fed's failure to signal yesterday that it will drive down long-term rates further in the near future -- as well as a report that Bank of America is considering raising fees -- and suddenly you have a good day for bank stocks.
AT&T (NYSE: T ) announced that it's going to scrap its unlimited data plan. Once users cross the 3 gigabyte threshold, their download speeds will slow down. Smartphones have been costly to telcos, and the iPhone carriers -- AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint -- are getting squeezed by their customers and Apple, both of whom increasingly hold the bargaining power.
The Dow rose today, but it's important for us to remember that what happens to the market on a day-to-day or even week-to-week basis doesn't matter nearly as much as how our stocks perform over the long run. If you're interested in one stock that our chief investment officer picked to crush the market, check out our brand-new report, "The Motley Fool's Top Stock for 2012." It highlights a company that is revolutionizing commerce in Latin America. For a limited time, you can get instant access to the name of this company for free by clicking here.