At the halfway point of the trading day the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI ) was up 75 points (0.55%) to 13,569. The S&P 500 (INDEX: ^GSPC ) is up 10 points (0.7%) to 1,461.
There were two economic releases today which were mixed for stocks. The first release was the Department of Labor's weekly unemployment claims report. New unemployment claims rose to 367,000 last week. That's above the previous week's 363,000 but below analyst expectations of 370,000. This week's rise puts the one-month average at 375,000. While the weekly claims can fluctuate greatly, the four-week average has not really moved from 370,000 in 2012.
The second economic release today was the Department of Commerce's Full Manufacturers' Shipments, Inventories, and Orders report. The advance report was released last Thursday, so there were no real surprises in the report. Orders were down 5.2% in August, led by a large drop in the transportation sector, which can be volatile. July was the Paris Air Show, at which Boeing signed a large number of new orders. However, aircraft orders overall were negligible in August. Excluding the transportation sector, new orders rose 0.7%
The markets as a whole are up, and a few stocks are leading the Dow higher.
Today's Dow Leaders
Today's Dow leader is Bank of America (NYSE: BAC ) , up 3.04% ($0.28) to $9.38. JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM ) is in third, up 2.25% ($0.91) to $41.78. The Fed's recent stimulus announcement has pushed up the banking sector as a whole. The stimulus is a boon for the big banks, as their performance is highly dependent on the health of the economy. Today's non-negative unemployment report bodes well for the economy, and as such, both banks are up. Fool analyst John Maxfield believes Bank of America is the Dow's best stock. He recently took an in-depth look at Bank of America and identified the three biggest risks to the bank. Click here for his take.
Second for the day is Alcoa (NYSE: AA ) , up 2.85% ($0.25) to $9.04. Alcoa is a cyclical company highly dependent on GDP growth for profitability. Today's positive news on the economy is pushing the stock up. Alcoa has had a rough few years as the economy has slowed, pushing commodity prices down. Aluminum prices have fallen 30% since April 2011, leaving Alcoa shares in a slump. If China's economy continues to slow, things could get worse for Alcoa. The aluminum giant reports earnings next week, and hopefully they will be positive. Despite the negatives surrounding Alcoa, Fool analyst Sean Williams still believes the company will outperform the market. Click here to read his analysis.
The best approach
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