These Stocks Are Leading the Dow Higher

At the halfway point of the trading day, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI  ) was up 39 points (0.29%) to 13,384. The S&P 500 (INDEX: ^GSPC  ) was up 6.5 points (0.46%) to 1,439.

Three U.S. economic releases this morning proved mixed for stocks.

Report

Period

Figure

Previous

Weekly new unemployment claims

Oct 6.

339,000

369,000

Trade deficit

August

-$44.2 billion

-$42.5 billion

Import price index

September

1.1%

1.1%

Source: MarketWatch U.S. Economic Calendar.

This morning the U.S. Department of Labor reported that there were 339,000 new unemployment claims last week. That is a significant drop from last week's 369,000 and far below analyst expectations of 368,000. This drops the four-week average to 364,000, the lowest level since March. The new unemployment claims level can fluctuate greatly, and analysts tend to follow the four-week average, rather than just the weekly claims.

The second economic release was from the U.S. Department of Commerce, which reported that the U.S. trade gap widened by 4% in August to end at $44.2 billion. That is just slightly worse than analyst expectations of a $44 billion gap and worse than last month's $42.5 billion gap.

The final economic release was the Department of Labor's import price index. The import price index rose by 1.1% in September and was led by oil prices. The rise was larger than analysts' expectations of 0.7%. If you exclude oil and other fuels, import prices rose just 0.2% in September. Year over year, the import price index is down 0.6%.

World markets 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 1.85% ($0.17) to $9.38. The Fed's announcement last month of continuing its stimulus efforts has pushed up the banking sector as a whole. The stimulus will be a boon for the big banks, as their performance is highly dependent on the health of the economy. Today's unexpectedly positive unemployment-claims number bodes well for the economy, and as such, the bank is 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 1.72% ($0.14) to $8.86. Alcoa reported earnings after market close on Monday of $0.03 per share, excluding $175 million ($0.15 per share) in one-time charges. While the headline number of $0.03 was in line with analyst expectations, all the one-time charges were not figured in, and as such, the stock dropped 4.6% yesterday. Fool analyst Taylor Muckerman recently took a closer look at Alcoa's earnings. Click here for his take.

The best approach
The rest of the week is full of potentially market-shaking events, but investors should remember to keep some perspective amid the market's daily ups and downs and focus on finding solid companies with bright futures. To get the scoop on the most-talked-about bank out there, check out our in-depth company report on Bank of America. The report details Bank of America’s prospects, including three reasons to buy and three reasons to sell. Just click here to get access.

Dan Dzombak can be found on his Facebook page. He holds shares of Bank of America. Click here and like his Facebook page to follow his investing articles. The Motley Fool owns shares of Bank of America.  The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.


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