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The Dow Sequesters the Bears

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It was déjà vu all over again for the markets today. For the second day in a row, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) made big gains on a mix of strong economic reports and a warm response to Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke's comments. The Dow jumped 175 points, or 1.3%, to finish at 14,075, its highest level in more than five years and just over 100 points from its all-time high. All 30 components finished the session in positive territory.

Durable goods orders finished down 5.2% for January, worse than the 3.5% decline the market expected and the 3.7% increase it had in December. However, the more stable durable goods core figure, which excludes transportation orders as they are particularly volatile, gained 1.9% on expectations of just 0.2%. The markets also cheered a 6.3% jump in the machinery, construction equipment, and computers category, its biggest jump in over a year and a move that signals greater business investment.

After yesterday's strong new home sales report, the housing sector got another shot of adrenaline as pending home sales jumped 4.5%, better than projections of just 1%. That figure marked the highest level since April 2010 as the National Association of Realtors Index hit 105.9.

Back on Capitol Hill today to address the House, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke defended the central bank's bond-buying program. In response to some tough questions, Bernanke insisted that the quantitative easing program helps average Americans and that the benefits outweigh the costs, despite hurting interest rates for retired savers.

JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM  ) was the big winner on the Dow today, gaining 3.5%. At his company's Investor Day, CEO Jamie Dimon said the bank would cut 17,000 jobs over the next two years, or 6.5% of its workforce. The bank explained the move by saying that there were fewer troubled mortgages and thus fewer employees needed to deal with them. Dimon also said the bank also seemed to call his bank bulletproof, claiming it would prosper in even a negative economic environment.

Boeing (NYSE: BA  ) was another strong gainer on the day, jumping 2.3% as the FAA appears to be close to providing a recommendation on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and the official word could come as soon as next week. Even with FAA approval of this initial step, the jets would still have to undergo extensive testing before returning to flight and enabling Boeing to go back to filling approximately 800 orders.

Outside the Dow, two big-name stocks were tanking after hours on poor earnings reports. Groupon (NASDAQ: GRPN  ) shares were off 26%, as its forecast badly missed analyst projections. The coupon merchant expects just $560 million to $610 million in the current quarter against the $650 million the experts had predicted. Revenue grew 30% in its fourth quarter as expected but the company posted a surprise loss.

J.C Penney (NYSE: JCP  ) shares were also getting hit hard after hours, falling 14% as its results went from bad to worse in the key holiday quarter. Same-store sales fell by 31%, and the retailer posted an adjusted loss of $1.95 per share, much worse than the $0.23 loss analysts expected.

With big finance firms still trading at deep discounts to their historic norms, investors everywhere are wondering if this is the new normal or whether finance stocks are a screaming buy today. The answer depends on the company, so to help figure out whether JPMorgan is a buy today, I invite you to read our premium research report on the company today. Click here now for instant access!

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