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This week followed what has become a familiar pattern, as stocks got off to an uncertain start on Monday only to pick up steam in the following days to close substantially higher. This week, economic news turned positive late in the week, with positive consumer sentiment figures and confirmation of nonexistent inflation pressure trumping troubling manufacturing readings from previous days. The market capped off the week with a big gain on Friday, as the Dow Jones Industrials (DJINDICES: ^DJI ) picked up 121 points to close at yet another record high. The S&P 500 (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC ) did even better on a percentage basis, climbing nearly 1% to 1,666 -- an even 1,000 points above its 2009 lows.
What was perhaps most surprising about today's gains was that JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM ) topped the Dow leaderboard, soaring 2.6% to hit its highest levels since early 2007 and getting close to 12-year highs. Given all the uncertainty the bank is dealing with in its proxy fight over CEO and Chairman Jamie Dimon, the confidence that investors are expressing that the situation will resolve favorably no matter what the result of the vote may be is encouraging. Despite real concerns about the inability to come up with meaningful assessments of intrinsic value for JPMorgan, investors remain convinced that an improving economy should equate to better results for the bank.
Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT ) also continued its strong run, gaining 2.3% to hit its own six-year high. With the company having achieved its goal of becoming the No. 3 smartphone operating system by market share after iOS and Android, Microsoft is demonstrating its ability to be a relatively small but still meaningful player in the mobile space, and that seems to be enough to reassure investors that Microsoft can supplement its core office and desktop operating system software revenue over time rather than fade into irrelevance.
Finally, outside the Dow, SolarCity (NASDAQ: SCTY ) climbed 27% in follow-through buying after Goldman Sachs gave the solar installer a $500 million financing deal that will allow Solar City to greatly expand its project capacity. With growth so important for SolarCity, which is working hard to bring residential-scale solar projects online, having more money to further its business model will be extremely useful.
With big finance firms still trading at deep discounts to their historic 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 figure out whether JPMorgan is a buy today, check out The Motley Fool's premium research report on the company. Click here now for instant access!