Disney and 3M Lead the Dow

The Dow is relatively unchanged today following yesterday's big rise, as there were no new economic reports. As of 1:25 p.m. EST, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) is down 27 points, or 0.19%, to 13,953. The S&P 500 (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC  ) is down four points, or 0.27%.

There were no U.S. economic releases this morning, but there was some news among individual companies. Yesterday, after the market close, Dow component Disney (NYSE: DIS  ) reported earnings that were down year over year but still better than expected. Disney reported first-quarter earnings of $0.79 per share, higher than analyst expectations of $0.76 per share and in line with Estimize's wisdom-of-the-crowd expectations.

Revenue increased 5% year over year to $11.3 billion, narrowly beating analyst expectations of $11.2 billion. The better-than-expected results pushed Disney up to a 52 week intraday high of $55.50 before the shares dropped back to $54.94 for a gain of 1.2%.

In other Disney news, CEO Bob Iger announced that Disney is working on some new Star Wars movies that will not be part of the nine-episode Star Wars saga. Last year Disney bought Lucasfilm, which owns the Star Wars franchise, for $4 billion. Episode VII is currently in the works, with Star Trek director J.J. Abrams leading the project.

Yesterday, 28 of the 30 Dow stocks were up, with only IBM and United Technologies in the red. Today is more mixed, with 17 Dow stocks down and 13 making gains.

Today's Dow leader
Today's Dow leader is 3M (NYSE: MMM  ) , up 1.3%. 3M is up after announcing a dividend increase and a share buyback plan. The company will increase its quarterly dividend by 8% from $0.59 to $0.635 per share. After the increase, the forward yield will be 2.5% The buyback plan authorizes the company to spend $7.5 billion buying back shares. Companies are generally bad at picking the right times to buy back shares, generally buying when the business is doing well and the stock is at an all-time high.

This is the case with 3M, which gradually bought back shares as the stock rose from 2003 to 2007. As the stock fell in 2008, 3M cut its share buybacks in half, and as the stock plummeted in 2009, the company stopped buybacks almost altogether. As the stock rose back to its old levels in 2010, the company again began to buy back stock. Perhaps this time around the company will wait until the stock is at a better price. Or perhaps that's just wishful thinking.

I will give kudos to 3M for not cutting its dividend through the crisis -- a crime many other companies committed.

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