The Dow is up on some markedly positive economic reports, while the S&P 500 is being weighed down by its largest component, Apple, which is down over 10% following worse-than-expected earnings. As of 1:25 p.m. EST, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) is up 47 points, or 0.34%, to 13,826. The S&P 500 (SNPINDEX:^GSPC) is up a fraction of a point.

There were three U.S. economic releases today.





Initial claims for unemployment

Jan. 12 to Jan. 19



Markit flash Purchasing Manager Index




Leading Economic Index




Source: MarketWatch U.S. Economic Calendar.

This morning the Department of Labor reported that weekly new unemployment claims fell by 5,000 to 330,000. The 330,000 new unemployment claims mark a five-year low and are far below analyst expectations of 360,000, which is roughly the level where new unemployment claims have rested all year. The four-week moving average fell by 8,250 to 351,750 -- also near a five-year low.

US Initial Claims for Unemployment Insurance Chart

US Initial Claims for Unemployment Insurance data by YCharts.

Also this morning, Markit announced its flash U.S. Manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index, which gauges whether economic activity is expanding or contracting. Any reading greater than 50 indicates growth, and higher numbers indicate that managers are more confident in the improvement of the economy. The PMI's reading was 56.1 for January, 2.1 points ahead of December and above analyst expectations of 53, indicating that more purchasing managers see the economy growing than did last month. 


The final economic release was the Conference Board's Leading Economic Index, which was up 0.5% in December, slightly above analysts' expectations of 0.4% growth. The index is made up of 10 indicators and is designed to signal peaks and troughs in the business cycle. The index was led upward by lower initial claims for unemployment insurance and more building permits issued, both signaling a strengthening economy.

With three markedly positive economic releases, it's no surprise that the Dow is up.

Today's Dow leader
Today's Dow leader is Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO), up 1.8% to $21. Cisco had a mediocre 2011, up just 6.4%, but it was a bumpy ride to a small year-end gain. In May 2012 Cisco issued guidance below analyst expectations, which sent the stock plummeting. It finally bottomed out in July around $15 per share. The rest of the year, Cisco slowly made its way back to where the stock started the year as the company turned things around and increased its dividend by 75% to $0.14 per share. With a low price-to-earnings ratio of 13, a rock-solid balance sheet, and a dividend yield of 2.7%, there's a lot to like about Cisco.

Dan Dzombak can be found on Twitter @DanDzombak or on his Facebook page, DanDzombak. He owns shares of Cisco Systems. The Motley Fool recommends Cisco Systems. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not 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.