Dow Heads Higher Again

Boosted by a strong employment numbers, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) made further gains today, finishing up 33 points, or 0.2%. Initial unemployment claims last week dropped to 340,000, a five-year low, down from 347,000 the week before, and better than analyst estimates of 350,000. Continuing claims were also near a five-year low, at 3.094 million.

Data on the international trade balance and productivity were roughly in line with expectations.

The Federal Reserve also released the results of its stress tests on the nation's largest banks, and said that in the aggregate, the 18 banks hold fewer bad loans than they did a year ago, and are stronger than they've been at any time since the financial crisis. Ally Financial, the former financial wing of General Motors, was the poorest performer. Next week, the Fed will decide if it will approve the banks' plans to return capital to shareholders via share buybacks and dividends.

Not surprisingly, Bank of America (NYSE: BAC  ) reacted well in the run-up to the Fed report, which was released after hours, as it gained 2.9% on the day. The results showed B of A would lose $44 billion, or 2.3% of its total assets, over the next nine quarters under the Fed's worst scenario, which includes the unemployment rate jumping to 12%, and the Dow getting cut in half. According to the test, the bank is capitalized well enough to survive such a scenario. Shares were down 0.6% after hours. JPMorgan Chase was also a strong performer on the day, gaining 1.2%.

Boeing (NYSE: BA  ) shares also jumped 2.5%, as Ray Conner, the CEO of the manufacturer's commercial airplanes division, said that a solution to the battery fires should come "in weeks, not months." Other reports today showed that the company had considered the risk of a battery fire nearly impossible during the 787's design and production phase. Oddly, shares of the aerospace-maker reached a 52-week high, even as delays in delivery and possible blowback airlines, including one that recently sued Boeing, could hurt profits.

On the other side of the coin, ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM  ) fell nearly 1% after evidence came out in a trial in New Hampshire that the oil giant knew it was using a chemical, MTBE, that could endanger the water supply. An Exxon executive insisted that his company had no alternative, as use of the chemical is required by the Clean Air Act. The state of New Hampshire is seeking damages of at least $245 million in the case.

Finally, after hours, shares of Pandora Media (NYSE: P  ) were up 21% after the music streamer beat estimates, and said that its CEO, Joe Kennedy, would be leaving the company. Revenue of $125.1 million topped expectations of $122.8 million on strong growth in its mobile division, and its EPS loss of -$0.04 was a penny better than expected. Guidance was mostly better than expected. Kennedy's decision seemed to be entirely his own, as he's spent 10 years in the position, and he will stay on until the company finds a replacement.

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, analysts Anand Chokkavelu, CFA, and Matt Koppenheffer, Financials bureau chief, 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.


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