A day after hitting a record high, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI ) isn't stopping to rest on its laurels. As of 2:20 p.m. EST, the index has risen 31 points, or 0.22%, to continue pushing into uncharted territory. Most stocks are in the green today, and the tech sector's rise is giving a nice boost to the markets. Let's dig into the details.
Tech highs and lows
Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ ) isn't stopping to admire the Dow's new record. The tech giant leads all Dow stocks higher, with shares up 3.8%. HP had an awful 2012, but 2013 has turned the tables on this stock: Since Jan. 1, shares have jumped a whopping 36% as investors look to take advantage of a potential turnaround opportunity. Take care if you're tempted, however: Analysts still expect the PC market to decline in 2013, and HP still has a long road back to respectability ahead of it. Until this company can establish a competitive long-term plan, I'd avoid this volatile stock.
Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT ) isn't helping the PC market's fortunes, as its new Windows 8 operating system has gotten off to a sluggish start. The company is offering the new OS at a discount to equipment manufacturers, according to The Wall Street Journal. Microsoft is hoping manufacturers will move into creating smaller, touch-based notebooks and laptops with Windows 8 in mind, but between the lackluster reception to the OS, Microsoft's sluggish Surface tablet sales, and the PC market's fall, investors should tread lightly around this vulnerable stock. Shares of the company lead all Dow laggards lower by losing 1%.
Fortunately, other members of the tech sector are having a better day. Cisco and Intel (NASDAQ: INTC ) have jumped on board the climbing Dow, with shares gaining 2.3% and 1%, respectively. Intel in particular has had a tough go lately, being heavily exposed to the same PC market woes that have taken down HP and Microsoft. However, the company's making moves to break into the mobile market: Intel is partnering with Chinese mobile-maker ZTE on a line of next-generation smartphones. Intel and ZTE already teamed up for the latter's Grand X IN smartphone, released in Europe last year, and if Intel's mobile push pays off, the company will end up much better-positioned for the future.
Outside of tech, aluminum producer Alcoa (NYSE: AA ) ranks among the Dow leaders with share price gains of 2.9%. Like HP, Alcoa has walked a tough road recently: Over the past 52 weeks, the stock has slumped 11.8%. While investors may be looking for a turnaround, don't expect the path ahead of Alcoa to be any easier: With China looking to curb its housing bubble, demand for raw materials across the Pacific could slow. Budget cuts in the U.S. sure won't help Alcoa's cause, either, and if infrastructure spending doesn't pick up, this stock won't become the turnaround story many are hoping for.
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.