Every month, the stock market waits for the latest employment numbers to come out. The day before each report, jobless-claims figures get special attention, as if they can provide insight into what tomorrow's more important nonfarm payroll numbers will tell. Yet between an unsurprising jobless-claims number and European Central Bank president Mario Draghi again weighing in with a vote of confidence for the euro, the stock market managed to chart its way to a modest gain. The Dow Jones Industrials (INDEX: ^DJI ) shot out of the gates with a 40-point gain, and as of 10:45 a.m. EDT, the index sits 81 points higher for a gain of 0.6%. The broader market also posted early gains.
Among Dow stocks, Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ ) dropped as much as 4% in the first half-hour of trade, following up on its 13% drop yesterday, which took it to a nine-year low. Fool contributor Evan Niu put it in simple terms last night: Falling earnings make the stock even less attractive than it already was. But the hardest thing for HP investors to swallow is that CEO Meg Whitman isn't sugarcoating the fact that it's going to take a long time to repair the damage that's been done to HP over the past several years. Until the hard work is done, shareholders will likely have trouble seeing big gains.
Caterpillar (NYSE: CAT ) is about 1% higher after announcing yesterday that it would hike prices on most of its products by about 3%. As Fool contributor Eric Volkman explained last night, the move comes as the second half of a one-two punch that started with the construction equipment giant's reduction in earnings guidance for its 2015 fiscal year. Whether the price increases will open the door to rival Joy Global (NYSE: JOY ) to capture market share remains to be seen, but Caterpillar clearly doesn't want to let its earnings take a hit without a fight.
Finally, 3M (NYSE: MMM ) is up 0.6%. The company announced that it would not go forward with a previously planned buyout of Avery Dennison's office and consumer products business. Although the companies didn't cite a reason for the move, the Justice Department was expected to fight the deal on anticompetitive grounds.
Getting back to work
Tomorrow's jobs report will answer a lot of questions about the economy, but it will still leave you with an important question: How should you invest for whatever the future brings? If you think boom times will be back, then Caterpillar may be a great way to profit. But what about the risk involved? Learn the ins and outs of the stock in the Fool's premium report on Caterpillar, which provides our latest analysis, along with a year's worth of free updates to take you well into Caterpillar's future. Click here and start reading today.