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A day after rallying to close at its highest point ever, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI ) did it again. Wednesday's advance was the fourth straight day of blue-chip advances. The major catalyst behind today's gain? A jobs report showing private sector employment increased by 198,000 workers in February didn't hurt -- especially when estimates called for 170,000. The Dow responded by adding 42.5 points, or 0.3%, to close at 14,296.
The highest-flying blue chip last year, Bank of America (NYSE: BAC ) , relived its glory days today with 3.2% gains to top the Dow. The Federal Reserve reported that most areas across the nation were seeing increases in consumer spending today, an encouraging sign for the health of the economy. Tomorrow, the Fed will reveal how Bank of America and other financial institutions did on their stress tests, which investors clearly weren't stressing over today.
Alternatively, Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT ) ended up as the weakest link in the Dow, losing 0.9%. While the European Commission's $731 million fine against the software giant certainly isn't news that most investors welcome with open arms, failing to allow Windows users a proper choice between Internet browsers isn't exactly, shall we say, a material thing to worry about, especially with more than $60 billion in the bank. The only problem: There are bigger problems, like how to succeed in mobile.
In a bizarre day of trading, Groupon (NASDAQ: GRPN ) shares, up as much as 6.5% in the morning, swung to a 6% loss by day's end. The reason behind the rapid decline was news that the CEO search would include only company outsiders. This qualification precludes current COO Kal Raman, who has experience at both Amazon.com and eBay.
Benefitting from an upgrade from Raymond James analysts, shares of First Solar (NASDAQ: FSLR ) were also up huge in the morning session, having added more than 8% at one point. The only difference: First Solar was able to preserve 3.2% gains. Raymond James justified its bullishness, explaining the nearly 15% decline in solar stocks since their 52-week highs this year is overdone.
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