Why the Dow Advanced Today

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI  ) , yo-yoing for much of the day, rallied back from lunchtime lows to close in the black. The index finished more than 26 points higher, at 13,103, for a 0.2% gain. 

Procter and Gamble (NYSE: PG  ) led all Dow components from the start of today's trading, and outperformed all others in the index, to close up nearly 3%. Its quarterly earnings came in higher than expected, and the company offered strong indications that it would continue cost control efforts that have been largely successful.

In the heart of earnings season, the market increasingly looks to company results to gauge the status of the broader economy. However, much of the macroeconomic data that has been released recently do not signal a robust recovery or an impending recession, but a very slowly recovering economic landscape.

For example, in September, business equipment sales fell, which could be a sign of reduced investment by the private sector in months to come. But three other measures of the economy -- new unemployment claims, durable-goods orders, and pending home sales -- also came out this morning, and they didn't look bad. In a time like this, with a variety of mixed macro indicators, earnings become even more important. 

Still, earnings aren't the whole story. Even though Boeing (NYSE: BA  ) pleased investors with its quarterly numbers yesterday, the stock was the biggest laggard on the Dow Thursday, falling more than 1.6%. Investors were more afraid about decreasing passenger travel on airplanes, a trend that would hurt Boeing if airlines decided to cut back on orders.

Two tech behemoths, Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN  ) and Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) , reported quarterly results after the markets closed today. At the time of this writing, Amazon shares were in the red in aftermarket trading after the company reported a $274 million loss, and revenues that failed to meet analyst expectations.

Apple was also trading lower in the post-market, as the company failed to meet earnings expectations, despite making 24% more than the same period last year. 


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