What's Pushing the Dow Higher Today

Stocks held Thursday's gains and proceeded to tack on close to 1% this morning. Investors quickly forgot last week's pessimism and big losing streak as hopes grew that Europe would move to curb its growing debt problem. Yesterday, Mario Draghi reinforced his commitment to saving the euro, leading investors to expect some form of stimulus and sending stocks soaring. By noon, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI  ) flirted with 13,000, gaining 0.83%. The S&P 500 (INDEX: ^GSPC  ) was up 1.13%.

Positive domestic news also contributed to the market's rise as investors held onto their shimmery hopes of further stimulus. As expected, gross domestic product only expanded at 1.5% between April and June, the weakest increase since the third quarter of 2011. While this may seem like bad news, the announcement hit the sweet spot where it exceeded lower projections, but was still weak enough to potentially indicate more Fed assistance is on the way. The news countered the lukewarm earnings season so far, as many companies have beat earnings estimates but missed revenue projections.

Dow in Focus
Merck (NYSE: MRK  ) stole the show on the Dow, rallying over 3% after the pharmaceutical company beat earnings estimates. The business reported earnings of $1.05 per share, beating estimates by $0.04, largely due to higher sales of diabetes medicines Januvia and Janumet. Merck has been streamlining operations to prepare for popular asthma drug Singulair's loss of patent protection in August, and so far its plan seems to be working. The company's performance helped boost health care to the top performing sector on the S&P 500.

Chevron (NYSE: CVX  ) lagged the Dow, posting a slight 0.3% loss on disappointing earnings. The oil company earned $3.66 per share last quarter, less than last year's $3.85 mark, and revenue fell by 9%. Falling prices hurt the oil giant's profit, as did its struggle to produce sufficiently to keep up with demand. The bleak picture painted by Chevron's earnings likely hurt peer ExxonMobil as well, as Exxon shares also trailed the Dow.

Momentum from earlier in the week continued to buoy Caterpillar (NYSE: CAT  ) , which gained almost 2% so far today. On Wednesday, the industrial company posted strong second-quarter earnings because of rising sales volume, even as economists warned of slowing international growth. Also, a potential pickup in homebuilding improves the company's future prospects, leading Caterpillar to raise its full-year profit forecast on increased demand in North America.

Earnings season can be a crazy time to be an investor. But leave the quarter-to-quarter speculation behind and check out The 3 Dow Stocks Dividend Investors Need. This special report from The Motley Fool is yours free, so claim your copy today.

Foolish intern Charlie Kannel owns no shares of the companies mentioned above. The Motley Fool owns shares of ExxonMobil. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Chevron. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.


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