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The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI ) closed above the all-powerful 14,000 mark yesterday, and is still hovering around it this morning -- despite some steep drops. Falling only 1% short of its record high set in October 2007, the Dow has been gaining steam so far this week, giving investors a chance to hope for new records.
Good news from both January retail sales and the import price index may have investors excited about more economic data showing a recovery. Despite increased taxes in January, retail sales grew 0.1% following a disappointing decline of 0.5% in December. While analysts see the increased Social Security levy affecting domestic household discretionary income, the fact that the job market and housing market are strengthening suggests that the economy is healthier overall.
Though the cost of imports to the U.S. increased by 0.6% from December, the new numbers represent a 1.3% decline from a year ago. Fuel prices really drove the increase -- excluding fuel, prices only increased 0.2%. Increasing demand for fuel commodities like crude oil is proof of the strengthening of the global economy. But as the strengthening continues, pressures on these commodities will begin to grow, leading to lower prices.
1 big winner
General Electric (NYSE: GE ) is up nearly 3% this morning following the news that the conglomerate will be exiting the TV business. Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA ) will be buying out GE's remaining 49% stake in NBC Universal for $16.7 billion. The deal is set to close before the end of the first quarter, with Comcast buying both 30 Rockefeller Plaza and the CNBC headquarters for $1.4 billion. GE had been looking to exit the television market for some time in order to refocus on other segments of its business. This proved a lucrative opportunity for Comcast, which continues to seek additional revenue from its popular cable stations and advertising.
1 potential big-win market
The housing market is continuing to rise, and with yesterday's news that mortgage delinquencies are falling, there's plenty of room for relevant stocks to rise as well. In the index this morning, financial stocks were mixed, with Bank of America (NYSE: BAC ) up and JPMorgan down. Bank of America had a huge day yesterday, with a 3.5% gain, and opened almost 1% higher today. Though it's back to the level of its previous close, this is a huge win for B of A investors, who have been waiting a long time for vindication. JPMorgan, on the other hand, continues to struggle with the recent news that it operated on knowledge of bad investments being sold to customers.
Elsewhere in the housing-related sphere, Trulia (UNKNOWN: TRLA.DL ) is having a big morning, up more than 20% as of this writing. The real estate Web-operator announced earnings yesterday, with narrowing losses and greatly improved Web traffic. Though the company missed analyst expectations on earnings, its revenue growth beat them thanks to a whopping 50% increase in total traffic and 45% increase in subscribers from a year ago. Web competitor Zillow announces earnings later today, so we'll see if the trend shown at Trulia continues across the board.
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!