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Why the Dow Closed at Another 5-Year High

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This has already been quite the year for equities. Thus far in January, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) has already risen more than 4.6%. Not bad for three weeks of trading! If the index rises 4.6% every month this year, the Dow will have risen 72% by year's end, which serves to show the insane power of compounded returns.

Today the blue-chip index had to settle for far more meager 62-point gains, to close at 13,712. Still, if today's 0.46% advance happened every trading day this year, the market would more than triple by 2014, so there's really no need to complain. 

Every day of trading has a certain theme. Whether it's economic data, political actions, or uncertainty, each day has its own catalysts. Today's catalyst was undoubtedly a slew of positive earnings reports. Leading the Dow higher with gains of 2.7%, UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH  ) gained by virtue of an industry peer, Travelers, and its own great quarter. Last week, Wall Street was impressed with UnitedHealth's results; today, Travelers' earnings beat indicated that the insurance landscape may be healthier than previously expected. 

Iconic soda company Coca-Cola (NYSE: KO  ) fell today because of its decision not to seize on one of the very images that made it iconic. A Coke executive said today that during the Super Bowl -- perhaps the biggest advertising day of the year -- the company says it won't be featuring its polar bear spots, essentially because they did too well last year. Right ...

Elsewhere, a notable after-hours advancer was chip maker Advanced Micro Devices (NASDAQ: AMD  ) , which fell a crushing 10.2% on Friday after Intel's earnings disappointment. Apparently the fears that AMD's results today would follow suit with Intel were overblown, and despite widening losses and projected declining revenue, the stock was up more than 2% post-announcement.

Medical-devices company Intuitive Surgical (NASDAQ: ISRG  ) also handily beat expectations Tuesday afternoon, and after hours the stock was trading as much as 8% higher. The innovative, high-tech business was driven by higher sales of its patented da Vinci Surgical System, which has been revolutionary in the health-care field. The $4.25 EPS figure blew the $4.03 estimates out of the water. 

If you want exclusive, members-only analysis of Intuitive Surgical, be sure to check out this brand-new premium report. A bearish research report has investors questioning the company's future, and analyst Karl Thiel recently released his exclusive take on the news. As one of the key minds behind our Rule Breakers recommendation of the stock in 2005 (before it went on to gain more than 1,000%), Thiel knows the Intuitive Surgical story inside and out. The report is a must-read for any current or prospective investor, and it comes with a full year of analyst updates. Be sure to claim your copy today by clicking here now.

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