At the halfway point of the trading day, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI ) was up 232 points (1.78%) to 13,279. The S&P 500 (INDEX: ^GSPC ) is up 27 points (1.93%) to 1,430, its highest level in four years.
There was one economic release today, but the big news is that European Central Bank president Mario Draghi announced an "outright monetary transaction," i.e., new bond purchases in the event a member country gets into trouble. The bank also announced it would leave its benchmark rate unchanged at 0.75%. The ECB believes recent spikes in bond interest rates have been caused by unfounded investor fears and do not reflect fundamentals. The program will allow the ECB to buy one- to three-year government bonds. This should help alleviate investor fears that a country would exit the euro if it got into trouble, which would be a nightmare for investors in the exiting country.
The economic release was the U.S. Department of Labor's unemployment insurance weekly claims report. Initial claims dropped 12,000 from last week's 377,000 to 365,000. Unemployment claims have been treading water since February, indicating that the economy is not adding or losing large numbers of jobs.
Stocks around the world rose on the news, and a few of them are leading the way.
Today's Dow leaders
Today's Dow leader is Bank of America (NYSE: BAC ) , up 4.65% to $8.32. In second is JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM ) , up 3.93% to $38.56. The banking sector as a whole is up, and Wall Street Banks are leading the charge. Banks have been hurt by fears of a European financial crisis. The moves by Draghi should hopefully quell those fears for the time being.
The FDIC recently released its Quarterly Banking Profile, which showed continued improvement in bank finances. JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America are two of the largest four banks in the U.S., and they are doing well. Bank of America was the third-best-performing Dow stock in August. With this big jump, it may be one of September's top three as well.
Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) is third, up 2.88% to $31.26. Yesterday, Nokia and Microsoft had a joint press conference unveiling the new Lumia 820 smartphone powered by Windows 8. Wall Street was less than impressed and sent Nokia's shares tumbling.
Microsoft has been up recently on the news of Apple's legal victory over Samsung. Analysts speculate that the decision will turn manufacturers away from developing Android products and toward developing Windows-based products. The Lumia is Nokia's first product to use Microsoft's Windows 8 operating system. Microsoft hopes others will follow in Nokia's footsteps, which would make Windows 8 a stronger competitor against Apples' iOS and Google's Android operating system.
Fool analyst Evan Niu took an in-depth look at the Apple v. Samsung decision and its implications for the mobile-phone space. As Microsoft marketing exec Bill Cox said, "Windows Phone is looking gooood right now." Click here for Evan's analysis.
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