For the second day in a row, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI ) finished essentially unchanged, moving up 5 points, or 0.04%. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq also scored minor gains in trading today.
Today's major economic news was a seemingly strong February retail sales report, which showed that sales at the consumer level increased 1.1% last month. Economists had expected an increase of just 0.5%, but much of those additional gains came because of higher gas prices, and since that spending ultimately leaves the domestic economy, it doesn't have the same boost as discretionary spending. Still, analysts considered it a relatively strong report, confirming that the recovery is still on track.
Dow components were relatively subdued today, as none of the 30 stocks moved more than 1%. Alcoa (NYSE: AA ) was the blue chips' biggest mover today, falling 0.9%, apparently tracking with Asian markets, which fell today, as the aluminum maker is highly dependent on the Chinese market. The Hang Seng was down 1.5% and the Shanghai Composite 1% last night on macroeconomic concerns.
Elsewhere, BlackBerry (NASDAQ: BBRY ) shares shot up late in the session, finishing ahead 8.2% with further gains after hours after the smartphone maker reported receiving its largest order. The purchase, from an undisclosed buyer, was for 1 million phones. BlackBerry did say that the order came from one of its established partners, and it will begin shipping the order immediately. Sales from the order are about equal to 2%-3% of last year's revenue.
Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX ) shares also continued their charge higher, gaining 5.6, after announcing a new partnership with Facebook (NASDAQ: FB ) that will allow users to share on Facebook what they're watching on Netflix. Facebook shares were unaffected by the news, falling 0.2%. The partnership will add a row of "Friends' favorites" and "Watched by Friends" to Facebook users who allow the integration.
Is now the time to buy Alcoa?
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.