Maybe it's a Friday thing. After hitting the 14,000 mark last Friday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI ) experienced big ups and downs throughout this week. And though it opened flat this morning, it jumped minutes later and hasn't looked back. Passing the 14,000 mark yet again, the Dow was hovering there for more than an hour before falling below it shortly after 11 a.m. -- but it's anyone's guess if it will break the mark once again before closing bell. If the good news released this morning from our government and the EU are any indicators, the Dow might have a good chance of doing so.
The Commerce Department's announcement that the country's trade deficit has shrunk during the month of December was expected. What was not expected was the degree to which it shrank -- December's deficit is the narrowest this country has seen in three years. While analysts expected $46 billion, the actual number ($38.5 billion) suggests that the economy performed much better than we thought during the fourth quarter of 2012. These numbers could result in a revision of the GDP numbers released last week, which disappointed many.
And from across the pond, it was announced that the European Union has agreed to a budget deal after overnight meetings. The European markets were up after the news.
HP announced that it would be stepping up oversight on its Chinese suppliers, who often take advantage of student and temporary workers. According to HP's proposed action, students from vocational schools will be limited in their suppliers' workforce, must work in an area relevant to their study, and be allowed to leave without penalty after giving reasonable notice. Though some question the efficacy of these new proposals, HP will begin requesting information and auditing its suppliers on a more frequent basis. This announcement comes before the July 1 enactment of a Chinese amendment aimed at protecting student and temporary workers.
Intel has had a few news mentions this morning. The semiconductor giant has invested another $6.5 million in network virtualization start-up Big Switch. The purpose of Big Switch is to develop software-defined networking, which would allow software to control networks and replace some of the functions in traditional routers and switches. This new focus is supposedly a big threat to Cisco's current hold on the router and switch market. In other news, Asus has revealed a new phablet (phone-tablet) that centers around an Intel Atom processor with Imagination PowerVR SGX540 graphics. The Asus MeMO Pad would be aimed at the Google Nexus 7's market share.
Microsoft has set its sights once again on Google, with another set of targeted "Scroogled" ads. This time, Mr. Softy has focused on issues of privacy, with daggers thrown at Google's use of personal information and data use for targeted ads, etc. Microsoft also got good news on Thursday, when a judge threw out 13 patent infringement claims against it from Google-owned Motorola Mobility. With all that good news for the software giant, it decided to share the wealth with an announcement that is sure to please many of its SkyDrive users. Hitting the 1 billion document milestone was a great feat for Microsoft, and spreading the wealth, the company has announced that users can now share and edit documents without having to sign into an Office Web Apps account.
A bit of bad news
Boeing (NYSE: BA ) got some good news yesterday when the FAA allowed the company to test-fly one of its 787 Dreamliners. But as the company continues to work on its lithium-ion battery issues, it warned customers with near-term Dreamliner deliveries that they may have to wait. This news has sent the stock down more than 1% so far in trading today.
Are you at ease... or nervous? It's been a great five-year run for investors, with the Dow and S&P at or near all-time highs. Yet fears abound. When will the next downturn hit? Will political gridlock lead to portfolio-killing inflation? To learn how to protect your portfolio, click here for free guidance from the Motley Fool Pro Academy!