Blizzard Can't Cool Stocks Off Today

Despite a blizzard bearing down on the Northeast, stocks are broadly higher today. With roughly an hour left in the trading session, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) is up by 40 points, or 0.29%.

A pair of economic reports released this morning paint a still-mixed picture of the economic recovery here at home. The Department of Commerce reported this morning that the U.S. trade deficit shrank in December to its lowest level since early 2010. Fueling exports was a rise in oil shipments. According to The Wall Street Journal, oil exports hit a record high in the final month of 2012, while the amount of oil imported dropped to the lowest level since 1997.

Alternatively, the Department of Commerce also released data showing that wholesale inventories were down 0.1% in December. While the consensus estimate had called for a 0.4% expansion, the actual figures are in line with the unexpected GDP contraction in the fourth quarter.

On the individual-company front, shares of McDonald's (NYSE: MCD  ) are up despite worrying news on the fast-food giant. The company announced today that its same-store sales for the month of January fell by 1.9% compared with the same month last year. While they increased in the U.S. by 0.9% -- thanks in part to the addition of the new grilled onion cheddar burger on its dollar menu -- they tanked in Asia, falling by 9.5% in the related business division.

Meanwhile, Boeing (NYSE: BA  ) is the worst-performing component of the Dow today, off by more than 1%. The aerospace company has struggled after aviation authorities around the world grounded its new, state-of-the-art aircraft, the 787 Dreamliner, due to concerns about its battery system. While Boeing executives have maintained that the problems wouldn't affect revenue or future deliveries, the company's now backtracking on these promises. In a statement released today, it noted, "We have informed our customers expecting 787 deliveries in the near term that those aircraft either have been or are at risk of being delayed."

Finally, shares of technology companies are up following a handful of newsworthy events. Speculation continues to circulate around the purportedly friendly feud between Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL  ) and hedge fund manager David Einhorn, who has been calling for the iPhone maker to return more of its $137 billion in cash to shareholders.

Although Apple has historically refused to respond to prodding of this sort, it released a statement yesterday saying, "We find ourselves in the fortunate position of continuing to generate large amounts of cash, including $23 billion in cash flow from operations in the last quarter alone." It then went on to note that "Apple's management team and Board of Directors have been in active discussions about returning additional cash to shareholders."

The possibility that Apple may distribute more of its accumulated riches has many shareholders salivating -- particularly given the abominable performance of its stock of late. Since peaking above $705 last September, the shares have recently traded below $440. They've since reclaimed ground and are trading at $477 on the heels of yesterday's announcement.

Also in the tech space, shares of LinkedIn (NYSE: LNKD  ) are soaring today, up more than 21% in midday trading after the company reported stellar fourth-quarter earnings. The number of users shot up by 66%, or 202 million people, compared with the same quarter of 2011. And revenue, unsurprisingly, followed suit, growing by 81% on a year-over-year basis. According to one analyst interviewed by The Wall Street Journal, it was a "stellar quarter by all accounts."

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