Who's Driving the Dow to New Highs Today?

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI  ) is on a roll. The market's most esteemed index tore another 0.6% higher this morning, reaching levels not seen since 2007.

This latest gain doesn't rely on a handful of breakout stars, but rather on a veritable shield wall of modest but respectable advances. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke may unveil another round of so-called "quantitative easing" later this week, and that tantalizing prospect is boosting stocks across the board.

That being said, you'll always find a handful of laggards and big winners along the united front.

Aluminum producer Alcoa (NYSE: AA  ) led the way, jumping 3% overnight. Miners and metal producers would benefit greatly from a large economic stimulus program such as the rumored QE3, and Alcoa is that industry's only representative on the Dow.

Right on Alcoa's heels, Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ  ) gained 2.4% as the tech giant's much-needed restructuring plans take shape. Monday's layoffs were followed by a high-profile executive snatch, stealing Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) head of North American operations, Robert Youngjohns. At HP, Youngjohns is tasked with running the software division. Redmond will miss him, but the loss is no disaster. Microsoft's shares are up 0.4%, lagging the rest of the Dow by about 0.2%.

The Dow's biggest loser today is food producer Kraft Foods (NYSE: KFT  ) . That stock has dropped 1.4% so far, with a significant portion of the fall coming in a sudden burst of high volume around 12:45 p.m. EDT. The catalyst behind the move isn't entirely clear, but I wouldn't be surprised to find out that a large financial institution cut its exposure to Kraft today. The upcoming spinoff of Kraft's snack foods division doesn't appeal to everyone.

Following the Dow's daily ups and downs can be exciting, but the index is actually packed with rock-solid companies for the long haul. Check out The Motley Fool's special report on the Dow, where we've named names on three promising Dow stocks for long-term investors. The report is absolutely free, so just click here and get your copy today.

Fool contributor Anders Bylund holds no position in any of the companies mentioned. Check out Anders' holdings and bio, or follow him on Twitter and Google+. The Motley Fool owns shares of Microsoft. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Microsoft. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a synthetic covered call position in Microsoft. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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