Bank of America Pushes the Dow Higher

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) is up following some mixed economic reports. As of 1:25 p.m. EST, the Dow is up 38 points, or 0.27%. The S&P 500 (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC  ) is up 0.24% to 1,518.

There were six U.S. economic releases today.





Consumer income




Consumer spending




Markit PMI




UM Consumer Sentiment








Construction spending




Source: MarketWatch U.S. Economic Calendar.

First up, the Department of Commerce reported that personal income fell 3.6% in January. That was worse than analyst expectations of a 2.6% drop. Personal income was expected to fall with the increase in taxes -- especially the 50% rise in the payroll tax. This was the largest drop in personal incomes since January 1993.

The Department of Commerce also reported consumer spending this morning. Despite the large decrease in personal income, consumer spending rose a seasonally adjusted 0.2% in January. That was in line with analyst expectations and above December's 0.1% growth.

Next up, Markit reported that its final February Purchasing Managers' Index fell from the advance look to 54.3. That's down from January's 55.8 and lower than the flash estimate of 55.2. Still, the reading indicates growth -- just at a slower rate than in the previous month.

Next, the University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index rose to 77.6 in February. That's higher than January's reading of 73.8, the preliminary February release of 76.3, and analyst expectations of 76.4.

Finally, the Institute for Supply Management's Purchasing Managers' Index rose to 54.2% in February. That's above January's 53.1% and analysts expectations of a drop to 52.5%. The rise to 54.2% signals growth at a faster rate than in January. The ISM PMI and Markit PMI differ in methodology.

US Purchasing Managers Index Chart

US Purchasing Managers Index data by YCharts.

Lastly, the Department of Commerce reported that construction spending fell 2.1% in January. That's below December's 1.1% growth and below analyst expectations of 0.7% growth.

Today's Dow leader
Today's Dow leader is Bank of America (NYSE: BAC  ) , up 1.4% to $11.43. Banks' results tend to move with the economy, so B of A is benefiting from the numerous better-than-expected economic releases today. Bank of America has gotten some other good news lately as well. Two days ago, MBIA said it believes a settlement of its lawsuit with Bank of America will be coming soon. This was one of the four major legal threats to Bank of America that Fool analyst John Maxfield laid out last month.

Bank of America's stock doubled in 2012. Is there more yet to come? With significant challenges still ahead, it's critical to have a solid understanding of this megabank before adding it to your portfolio. In The Motley Fool's premium research report on B of A, analyst Anand Chokkavelu, CFA, and financials bureau chief Matt Koppenheffer lift the veil on the bank's operations, including detailing three reasons to buy and three reasons to sell. Click here now to claim your copy, and as an added bonus, you'll receive a full year of free updates and expert guidance as key news breaks.

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