See what a nice three-day weekend can do for one's well-being? After the President's Day holiday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI ) is stretching its legs this morning. Hitting well above the 14,000 mark shortly after the opening bell, the index is hovering around a 45-point gain as of this writing. The index is getting closer to its 2007 record close of 14,163 -- another benchmark for investors to watch in the coming days and weeks.
Investor confidence may be up following some news from Europe. The German economy is gaining steam, with the ZEW economic sentiment index reaching 48.2 in February, a 34-month high. European markets gained on the news, with indexes in Germany, France, and Britain up 1%.
We also have quite a lineup of company earnings releases today, which will fuel more trading during this short week. Scheduled to release earnings after the closing bell, Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ ) is up 2% in trading this morning. The beleaguered tech company is reporting first-quarter earnings, and so far Wall Street isn't expecting much. But investors may be banking on the company's past earnings surprises -- it beat analyst estimates in the past four quarters. So as bears sell off shares today, bulls may be scooping them up with expectations of a big earnings win. And that may not be so hard to do -- analysts are expecting the PC maker to report huge drops in both revenue and earnings, with the latter expected to decline 22%.
Bank of America (NYSE: BAC ) is also leading the pack today in winning Dow components, up 1.7% so far today. The bank has been getting some good press so far in this short week of trading. After court documents were released last week, it's been noted that the Federal Reserve put its weight behind B of A in the legal fight between the bank and insurance giant AIG (NYSE: AIG ) . Seeking $7 billion in damages, AIG is still trying to recover losses from mortgage-backed securities it insured that were not of the quality banks like BAC had represented them to be. Bank of America also got some good news when regional bank Arvest Bank received regulatory approval to purchase 29 of the big bank's branches. The sale will move forward, with Arvest beginning its rebranding of the branches next month. The bank also recorded a mark in the win column for record growth of its commercial bank 401(k) business -- it had a 28% increase from 2011.
Other news spurring on investors today? One word: mergers. OfficeMax (NYSE: OMX ) and Office Depot were both up big this morning as news hit that the companies are deep in talks of merging. The news is benefiting OfficeMax a bit more, boosting the stock up 25%-plus while Office Depot has risen 15.3% so far in trading. Even rival Staples got a boost this morning, up 11.9%. Investors shouldn't be surprised to see these gains move as more details of the merger are released.
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