1 Sector Standing Firm as the Dow Struggles

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) is on the verge of its hottest winning streak in years. If the index can maintain its climb and finish the session above yesterday's closing level, it will record nine straight trading days of gains (which also happen to be all-time highs). This morning the blue-chip index dropped more than 30 points, but it has since been crawling back toward breakeven. As of 11:55 a.m. EDT, it's down 15 points, or 0.11%.

The markets were bolstered this morning by news that February retail sales jumped 1.1%, much higher than the 0.5% gain economists had expected. February's rise is the largest our economy has seen since September and follows a disappointing 0.2% gain in January. Many analysts believe retail sales have improved because the higher payroll tax, which burdened the January sales figures, is now better accommodated by a stronger job market and higher household income.

Winning in a sea of losers
Only 12 of the Dow's 30 component stocks are in positive territory so far in trading. And though none of the gainers are making any big moves, there is one sector that is clearly standing firm as others fall: financials.

Travelers Companies (NYSE: TRV  ) is among the leading Dow stocks, up 0.37%. The insurance company has been a favorite on the Street for quite a while and continues to rise during 2013. The stock began trading ex-dividend a week ago, and since then there haven't been any notable events or headlines to keep it headed north -- just continued investor confidence.

JPMorgan (NYSE: JPM  ) sits just above breakeven. While investors wait for tomorrow's release of the Fed's CCAR results, most banks wait on pins and needles to see how the market will react. Though JPMorgan went into this year's Fed stress tests with a higher Tier 1 capital ratio, the stress scenarios reduced it to match the prior year's results, sending mixed signals to investors. Unlike Citigroup (NYSE: C  ) , which rose 3% following its stress test results last week, JPMorgan hasn't fared so well, but if this year does match last, tomorrow's results may catapult its stock higher. In 2012, the bank announced that it would raise its dividend and initiate a $15 billion buyback program -- something 2013 investors would be keen to see again.

Bank of America (NYSE: BAC  ) is hanging on with its fingernails, up just 0.17%. Like JPMorgan, B of A is waiting for tomorrow's big announcement. The bank has been one of the most closely watched banks when it comes to the Fed's stress tests, having proven that it can withstand even the harshest of blows. Bank of America investors breathed a sigh of relief after last week's first-round results were released. Its Tier 1 capital ratio improved 3% after last year's tests, and the ratio didn't crumple under the stressed scenarios as JPMorgan's did; it improved a healthy 1.1% over last year. If analysts are right, Bank of America investors may see their penny-per-share dividend quadruple after tomorrow's results are released.

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, analyst Anand Chokkavelu, CFA, and Financials Bureau Chief Matt Koppenheffer lift the veil on the bank's operations, including three reasons to buy and three reasons to sell. Click here now to claim your copy.


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