Earlier today, it looked like the stock market might well continue its losing ways from last Friday, as the Dow Jones Industrials (DJINDICES:^DJI) were done more than 100 points briefly this afternoon. But a late-day rally pulled the Dow back from the brink, and by the close, the Dow actually managed to gain two points for the session.

A few stocks helped to pull the Dow out of its funk. Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ) rose a percent and a half even as analysts are skeptical that the release later this week of the Windows 8 operating system will have any measurable impact on the ailing PC market. At this point, any sign of life whatsoever from HP would be applauded as a positive sign, and the stock has fallen so far that a lot of bad news is already reflected in the share price.

UnitedHealth Group (NYSE:UNH) also climbed 1.6%. Last week, the company was able to take advantage of favorable rates to raise $2.5 billion toward its purchase of Brazilian health insurance giant Amil. The acquisition should go a long way toward establishing UnitedHealth as a strong global player in the industry and thereby reduce some of its exposure to U.S. health-care reform.

Finally, Caterpillar (NYSE:CAT) jumped 1.5%. The construction giant has done exceedingly well in boosting earnings and expects to finish 2012 as a record year for both revenue and earnings. Yet long-term concerns about the health of the global economy persist. With Caterpillar increasingly reliant on mining-equipment sales, the lackluster report from Freeport-McMoRan (NYSE:FCX) today bodes ill for Caterpillar's future prospects. Yet if measures from several central banks and world governments to stimulate growth succeed, then Caterpillar could bounce back quickly and shares could keep rising.

Fool contributor Dan Caplinger has no positions in the stocks mentioned above. The Motley Fool owns shares of Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold. Motley Fool newsletter services recommend UnitedHealth Group. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.