It's always hard for markets to jump over new hurdles. On one hand, the stock market is nearing new multiyear highs on optimism that the economy may avoid some of the dour projections that have kept stocks in check for the past few months. Yet with most of the second-quarter earnings season over, investors will inevitably start worrying about third-quarter results, and many companies have either missed revenue estimates or guided future projections downward. That tug-of-war makes for some choppy days in the stock market, and today is one of them, with the Dow Jones Industrials (INDEX: ^DJI) rising about 32 points just after 10:45 a.m. EDT. Positive retail sales data in the U.S. as well as favorable news regarding the German and French economies also helped boost the overall market, with the S&P 500 (INDEX: ^GSPC) gaining almost four points to 1,408.

Home Depot (NYSE: HD) led the Dow higher, rising more than 3% after releasing its quarterly results and raising its guidance for earnings for the year. In particular, improving conditions in hard-hit California and Florida bode well not just for the company's future but for the overall housing market as well, given those states' importance in the national market.

Financial stocks were also higher, with Bank of America (NYSE: BAC) and JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM) both rising almost 1.5%. B of A announced the nationwide launch of an interesting program that will give customers cash back on online and mobile purchases. As banks start moving toward mobile-based electronic payment systems, deals like this will become increasingly important. Meanwhile, JPMorgan will reportedly let its derivatives customers put excess collateral in separate bank accounts in an effort to address concerns about lost money at MF Global and Peregrine Financial. The move may help those customers, but it certainly won't restore lost faith in the financial system after billions in losses from the two scandals.

Inch by inch
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