HP Leads the Dow Higher

The Dow is up slightly on a positive U.S. economic report. As of 1:10 p.m. EST, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) is up 47 points, or 0.34%, to 13,991. The S&P 500 (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC  ) is up 0.51% to 1,517.

There were two U.S. economic releases today.

Report

Period

Result

Previous

U.S. trade deficit

December

$38.5

$48.6

Wholesale inventories

December

(0.1%)

0.6%

Source: MarketWatch U.S. Economic Calendar.

This morning the Department of Commerce reported that the U.S. trade deficit declined to $38.5 billion, its lowest level since early 2010. That's down from $48.6 billion in November and far below analyst expectations of a drop to $45.5 billion. Imports fell 2.7% to $224.9 billion, while exports were up 2.1% to $186.4 billion.

US Trade Deficit Chart

US Trade Deficit data by YCharts.

The better-than-expected U.S. trade deficit number is good new, as it suggests that the fourth-quarter drop in GDP of 0.1% will likely be revised upward. The advance GDP report last week estimated that exports decreased 5.7% in Q4 while imports decreased 3.2%. Today's trade deficit report suggests that those numbers are an overestimate.

In today's second U.S. economic release, the Department of Commerce reported that wholesale inventories were down 0.1% in December. That's below November's growth of 0.6% and analyst expectations of 0.4% growth.

At the halfway point of yesterday's trading session, 27 of the 30 Dow stocks were down. Today is markedly more positive, with 23 Dow stocks up and seven in the red.

Today's Dow leader
Today's Dow leader is Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ  ) , up 2.5%. The company announced yesterday that it had put in place new guidelines for its suppliers in an effort to improve working conditions in China. The company said employees must get "fair remuneration and social insurance." This effort is similar to the policies other companies have put in place -- most notably Apple, which was in the news last year for problems at Foxconn, its major Chinese supplier.

While that's the news on HP for the day, the stock is more likely up on the rumor from earlier this week that the HP board is again considering a breakup of the company. While the rumor appears unfounded, the company is in the midst of a major turnaround, and a breakup is definitely an option available to CEO Meg Whitman.

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^GSPC $1864.85 Up +2.54 +0.14%
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