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The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI ) notched another win today, riding a batch of strong earnings to finish at 15,105, up 49 points, or 0.3%. It was the Dow's second record high in a row, and the S&P 500 set a record for the fifth consecutive session today. Among stocks posting better than expected earnings last night and today were Disney, Whole Foods Market, Groupon, and Tesla.
While there were no relevant economic reports out of the U.S. today, strong data from China and Germany also helped push stocks higher. Investors cheered reports that Chinese imports grew 16.8% and exports grew 14.7% in April, indicating strong economic expansion, while in Germany, industrial activity jumped in March when a decline was expected.
Turning to Dow stocks, UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH ) led the pack with a gain of 3.3% after receiving new coverage yesterday from JPMorgan Chase at overweight with an encouraging note saying that Medicare Advantage cuts will not affect the company as much as some fear. After a 2.2% gain yesterday, the optimism seemed to continue into today.
Alcoa (NYSE: AA ) shares jumped 2.7%, as China is a huge market for the aluminum-maker, and the trade increase across the Pacific bodes well for demand for the commodity. Alcoa has struggled in recent quarters as prices for aluminum have been soft, but stronger growth in China could easily change that.
On the other side of the coin, McDonald's (NYSE: MCD ) was the Dow's biggest loser, falling 1.3%, after reporting same-store sales for April. The Golden Arches said the avian flu scare in China kept some customers at home, leading to a 2.9% drop in sales in Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. Overall, comparable sales were down 0.6% with a gain of 0.7% in the U.S. and a drop of 2.4% in Europe.
McDonald's turned in a dismal year in 2012, underperforming the broader market by 25%. Looking ahead, can the Golden Arches reclaim its throne atop the restaurant industry, or will this unsettling trend continue? Our top analyst weighs in on McDonald's future in a recent premium report on the company. Click here now to find out whether a buying opportunity has emerged for this global juggernaut.