The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI ) continues to blow past all-time highs, having briefly reached 14,321 this morning. The market fell slightly as the day went on, and as of 3:15 p.m. EST the Dow is up 0.35%.
The market was driven higher by better-than-expected employment data. According to payroll company ADP, the U.S. added 198,000 jobs during February and added 23,000 more in January than originally estimated. Analysts only expected 175,000 jobs to be added in February, so this was a significant beat.
Bank of America (NYSE: BAC ) is charging 3.5% higher today. The megabank tends to jump when positive economic data is released, but investors are also speculating that tomorrow's stress-test results will show a bank healthier than it was a year ago. This could lead to an increased dividend, which investors would love to hear in the next few months.
Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ ) leads the Dow with a 3.6% gain after it signed a deal with Teradyne for networking solutions. Teradyne expects the deal to speed up development of new testing products, which is data-intensive. At this point any good news is great for HP, and the improving economy gives the company a larger pool of customers to draw from.
Alcoa (NYSE: AA ) rounds out the top three, gaining 3.2% for the day. Alcoa was down last week on fear that China would slow down, but now it's spiking on hope for the U.S. economy. The stock can be volatile based on economic news, but with the U.S. economy growing gradually, investors looking to buy Alcoa can get in when the stock drops and then take advantage of days like today.
Materials industries are traditionally known for their high barriers to entry, and the aluminum industry is no exception. Representing 14.7% of 2011 global production in this highly consolidated industry, Alcoa is in prime position to take advantage of growth that some expect will lead to total industry revenue approaching $160 billion by 2017. Based on this prospective and several other company-specific factors, Alcoa is certainly worth a closer look. For a Foolish investment perspective on this global giant, simply click here to get started.