Why These 3 Stocks Are Leading the Dow's Rally

At the halfway point of the trading day, the markets have recovered earlier losses. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) is up 119 points, or 0.92%, as of 1:22 p.m. EST, while the S&P 500 (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC  ) is up 0.42%.

The three U.S. economic-data releases this morning were mixed for stocks.

Report

Period

Result

Previous

ADP Change in Nonfarm Payrolls

November

118,000

157,000

Productivity

Q3

2.9%

1.9%

ISM Non-Manufacturing index

November

54.7%

54.2%

Source: MarketWatch U.S. Economic Calendar.

This morning, ADP announced that the U.S. added 118,000 jobs in November. That is less than October's 157,000 jobs but in line with analyst estimates. The company estimated that Not-Quite-A-Hurricane Sandy cost the U.S. 86,000 jobs. ADP always comes out with its report a few days before the official jobs report on Friday. ADP's numbers only include the private sector, while the government's figure includes both the private and public sector.

ADP Change in Nonfarm Payrolls Chart

ADP Change in Nonfarm Payrolls data by YCharts.

The second report today from the Department of Labor said that productivity rose 2.9%, a revision upward from the previously reported 1.9%. Analysts had expected a revision to 2.8%.

Third for the day was the Institute for Supply Management's Non-Manufacturing index. The ISM reported the index rose 0.5 percentage points to 54.7% in November, up from 54.2% in October. The index tracks the services sector, and the rising number indicates a slightly faster growth rate in November. Analysts had expected a decline in the index to 53%.

The Dow started the day down but reversed course around 11 a.m. EST. Perhaps some traders know something about Congress' negotiations over the fiscal cliff. With the mixed bag of economic reports and no news about the fiscal-cliff negotiations, it's a bit of a surprise that the market is up almost a percent. These three stocks are leading the Dow's rally today.

Today's Dow leaders
Today's Dow leader is Bank of America (NYSE: BAC  ) up 4.75% to $10.37. The big bank's financial results are highly dependent on the health of the economy, so its stock is up as investors' perceptions of the health of the economy grow more positive. Bank of America has been making some big moves recently, including finishing its mortgage settlement obligations two years earlier than expected. Bank of America has had a huge year in 2012. Fool analyst John Maxfield thinks it's time to buy Bank of America. At the same time, Fool analysts Anand Chokkavelu and Austin Smith recently looked at what they consider to be the biggest threat to Bank of America.

Second for the day is Travelers (NYSE: TRV  ) up 4.5% to $73.73. Investors had been concerned over Travelers' exposure to Superstorm Sandy. Given the uncertainty over the extent of the damages, the company had temporarily suspended stock buybacks. Travelers' announced today that it estimates its losses will be $1.14 billion, but that drops to just $650 million after taxes and reinsurance kick in. As such, the company announced it would reinstate its share buyback program. There's a lot to like about Travelers -- especially its 2.6% dividend. Fool contributor Anders Bylund calls buybacks the invisible dividend and shows you how Travelers is a great example of the power of buybacks. Click here for his take.

Third for the day is Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ  ) up 4.3% to $14.12. HP has had a terrible year. It's down 45% year to date thanks to two $8 billion-plus writedowns, a declining market for PCs, and accusations of fraud against the former CEO of one of its acquisitions. With such a beaten-down stock, value investors are getting interested. The stock has rallied 11% in the past week as some investors begin to see HP as a steal.

Is Bank of America a buy?
To learn more about 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.


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