With one market milestone firmly in the books, investors are turning their attention to another coming milestone for the market: the fourth anniversary of the current bull market. On March 9, 2009, the stock market hit rock-bottom after a horrendous meltdown that lopped off more than half the value of the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI ) and S&P 500 over the preceding 18 months. Yet, at least for now, the bull shows no signs of taking a breather as investors ignore ominous long-term financial and macroeconomic issues in Europe, Japan, and other key economies. As of 1:25 p.m. EST, the Dow is up 44 points, or 0.3%.
Banking stocks in the Dow are among the top performers, with JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM ) and Bank of America (NYSE: BAC ) posting gains of 1.2% and 2.2%, respectively. The latest installment of the stress tests is almost upon us, and B of A in particular is looking for a clean bill of health from the Federal Reserve and thus the go-ahead to boost its token dividend to a more respectable level. Yet even as most of the attention in the space has focused on Bank of America's big gains in the past year, JPMorgan has quietly seen its stock eclipse the $50 per-share mark, though it still trades at an earnings multiple of less than 10.
Beyond the Dow, earnings still played a big role among winning stocks. Ciena (NYSE: CIEN ) climbed 16.7% after posting a strong first-quarter report, with adjusted earnings reflecting a surprise profit and defying analyst projections for a loss. The fiber-optic networking equipment company believes it has a competitive advantage in both its proprietary technology and its relationships with customers, but the real key in the industry is whether major telecom companies will step up with higher capital-spending on the equipment Ciena and its peers sell.
Finally, Clean Harbors (NYSE: CLH ) rose 3.4% on an upgrade by a Wall Street analyst. The environmental clean-up and waste-management company has been a favorite of Fool analyst Alyce Lomax for some time, and plenty of high-profile events, including the Gulf oil spill and Hurricane Sandy, have given it a chance to show what it can do for customers. The inevitability of future disasters is unfortunate, but for Clean Harbors, it's a growth opportunity that could send shares soaring in the long run.
With JPMorgan and other big banks still trading at deep discounts to their historical norms, investors everywhere are wondering if this is the new normal or if finance stocks are a screaming buy today. The answer depends on the company, so to help you figure out whether JPMorgan is a buy today, I invite you to read our premium research report on the company today. Click here now for instant access!