Blue-chip stocks are broadly higher this afternoon, seemingly thanks to upbeat corporate earnings and hopes of a continuation of accommodative monetary policies from the Federal Reserve. With about an hour left in the trading session, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI ) is higher by 78 points, or 0.52%.
With earnings season coming to a close, it's time to start looking back at how corporate America performed in aggregate over the first three months of the year. According to Bloomberg News, approximately 72% of S&P 500 companies that have reported thus far have beaten bottom-line expectations. By comparison, only 47% have exceeded the consensus estimate on the top line. The disparity is likely the result of lagging demand, given the ongoing uncertainty in the market, mixed with aggressive cost-cutting across a wide swath of industries.
The next blue-chip company to report is Disney (NYSE: DIS ) , which is set to release results after the bell today. Analysts are expecting the company to earn $0.77 per share, according to The Wall Street Journal. Investors are looking confident, bidding the shares up 0.9% this afternoon.
The market's bottom-line performance, however, has helped shield the market from less-than-stellar economic news that has recently come out. This morning, for example, the Department of Labor reported job openings and separations data for the month of March. As you can see in the far right of the chart below, hiring figures and job openings took a turn for the worse last month, though both are headed more generally in the right direction.
Employers reported a total of 3.84 million job openings in March, which was less than the previous month's 3.9 million but roughly in line with the same figure on a year-over-year basis. Meanwhile, the number of people hired during the month fell by nearly 200,000 on both a sequential and annualized basis. Concern about federal budget cuts is being cited as the most likely culprit.
On the individual-company front, shares of JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM ) are leading the Dow higher, up by 2.3% at the time of writing. The move comes despite a growing sense of discontent with the megabank's board of directors. Over the past week, the two largest consultants to institutional investors recommended against re-electing members of JPMorgan's risk committee following last year's $6 billion-plus "London Whale" scandal. These same companies are pressing their clients to vote in favor of splitting the roles of chairman and CEO, both of which are currently held by Jamie Dimon.
Heading lower, alternatively, are shares of Cisco Systems (NASDAQ: CSCO ) , which have lost 2% in mid-afternoon trading. While there doesn't seem to be a specific catalyst behind the move, as my colleague Matt Thalman noted earlier today, "Cisco has recently announced a number of new business developments and products, but investors have not seen any new revenue or profit from these ventures."