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Earlier today, it looked like the stock market might well continue its losing ways from last Friday, as the Dow Jones Industrials (INDEX: ^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.
Increasingly, the Dow's overall results will rely on cyclical stocks doing their fair share. Caterpillar is the market share leader in an industry in which size matters, and its quality products, extensive service network, and unparalleled brand strength combine to give it solid competitive advantages. Read all about Caterpillar's strengths and weaknesses in our brand new report, which reveals whether Caterpillar is a buy right now. Just click here to access it now.