Stock markets around the world have increasingly traded in concert with each other. But today, U.S. stocks are bucking the global trend, posting gains even as major markets in Asia and Europe are mostly lower. A big drop in the Consumer Price Index has taken inflation concerns off the table, and many analysts believe that it could set the stage for the Federal Reserve to take further action when it meets next week. That's helped push the Dow Jones Industrials (INDEX: ^DJI ) to an 85-point gain at 10:45 a.m. EDT, although the Nasdaq Composite (INDEX: ^IXIC ) lagged behind with a smaller rise.
Rising dividends were a big theme in the Dow this morning. United Technologies (NYSE: UTX ) rose 1.5% after announcing an 11% dividend increase yesterday. Given the efforts that the company has made to raise capital to finance its Goodrich acquisition, the dividend hike is a vote of confidence that the post-merger company will be able to deliver higher cash flow and earnings growth.
Caterpillar (NYSE: CAT ) also raised its dividend by 13%, helping contribute to an almost 1% gain for the stock. The move comes after the stock has lost significant ground in light of growing concerns about China's future growth prospects, but it may help reassure investors that the company believes its earnings potential is sound regardless of a possible rough patch to come.
Home Depot (NYSE: HD ) was the big gainer in the Dow, rising almost 2% despite analyst Zacks reiterating its neutral rating on the stock. It's hard to argue with the company's share-price performance, as the stock has soared on hopes that a stronger recovery would lift the housing market out of its funk and boost Home Depot sales from construction activity. Yet with real concerns about the economy's health, the stock may well have gotten ahead of itself. Home Depot needs to keep delivering solid results to justify its rapidly rising shares.
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