These Stocks Paved the Dow's Way Higher

It wasn't the strongest of days for the stock market, but the major market indexes all finished in the green to close out the week. As the busiest week of earnings season came to a close, stock-specific news helped boost overall confidence in the U.S. economy even in the face of economic data to the contrary. When the dust cleared, the Dow Jones Industrials (INDEX: ^DJI  ) finished up about 0.2%.

But especially during earnings season, you'll always find winners and losers within the market. Today, let's look at three stocks that helped pull the Dow up to a fourth straight day of gains.

Cisco Systems (Nasdaq: CSCO  ) , up 1.9%
Cisco didn't release any earth-shattering news today, but it was nevertheless up on a reasonably good day for tech stocks. Increasingly, investors are seeing technology as the key driver of any U.S. economic expansion, and whenever optimism about the nation's prospects rises, you can expect to see Cisco and its peers on the rise with them.

One area where Cisco needs to focus is on the rise of cloud computing. As more data resides beyond personal devices, it will become increasingly critical for networks to handle the increased capacity. Cisco has had trouble warding off its competitors lately, but its scale could be a valuable weapon if Cisco can wield it successfully.

McDonald's (NYSE: MCD  ) , up 1.7%
McDonald's has had an undeniably strong past. The big question it faces is how it will address the future.

With incoming CEO Don Thompson replacing the retiring Jim Skinner in July, McDonald's could be positioning itself for a new path forward. International expansion and brand-building will always be a big part of McDonald's overall strategic plan, but the fast-food giant will also have to respond to renewed attacks from rival Burger King and other competitors in the space. For those who fear a sluggish economy might slip back into recession, McDonald's seems like a smart defensive play.

Coca-Cola (NYSE: KO  ) , up 1.2%
Coke has made all the right moves from a shareholder perspective lately. It hit a new 52-week high today, as investors continue to buy up the shares following its announcement earlier this week to do a 2-for-1 stock split.

Splits don't change the economics of share ownership, but investors seem to infer management confidence about companies that do splits. Still, you have to remember that even if the share price gets cut in half in the near future, the stock will still trade at around 20 times earnings -- no longer the bargain that you could have fetched a few years ago.

Wait till next week!
Earnings season continues next week, so you can expect a lot more ups and downs from the market. If you haven't already taken a look at The Motley Fool's special report on earnings, don't wait another minute. Inside, you'll get the names of five stocks that investors simply have to watch this earnings season. The report is free, so get the scoop today.

Fool contributor Dan Caplinger doesn't own shares of the companies mentioned. You can follow him on Twitter. The Motley Fool owns shares of Coca-Cola and Cisco Systems. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of McDonald's and Coca-Cola. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Fool has a disclosure policy.


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