The Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI ) finished up today as markets reacted to positive manufacturing data.
|Dow Jones Industrial Average
|S&P 500 (INDEX: ^GSPC )
The Dow started the day down but quickly reversed course at 10 a.m., when the Institute for Supply Management released its Purchasing Managers' Index, which gauges whether economic activity is expanding or contracting. Any reading above 50 indicates growth, and the higher the number, the faster the rate of change. The PMI's reading was 53.4 for March, one point ahead of February, indicating that the economy is growing at a faster pace than last month. This marks the 32nd consecutive month of manufacturing expansion. Analysts had expected the PMI to be 53.
The market rallied today on the news, finishing with a 0.4% gain. Today's rally can hardly be called a surge, though is interesting to note that 26 of the 30 Dow components rose.
Leading the pack was today's top Dow stock, Alcoa (NYSE: AA ) , up 1.5% to $10.17. Alcoa has been one of the Dow's most volatile stocks, and weak purchasing managers' surveys in Asia and Europe two weeks ago have been weighing on it. It does have a tendency to be the best- or worst-performing stock depending on which way the market is moving, but it's been on a tear in 2012, rising nearly 18%. In fact, Fool analyst David Lee Smith believes Alcoa's future may be even brighter than you think.
Home Depot (NYSE: HD ) was today's worst Dow stock, down 0.64% to $49.99. I couldn't find any news in particular pushing down the stock, and the company does haveplenty going for it. A recent Interbrand study concluded that Home Depot is the third most valuable brand in the retail industry, second only to Target and Wal-Mart. It pays a dividend to boot, and two months ago Fool analyst Sean Williams cited Home Depot as one great dividend you can buy right now.
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