UnitedHealth Leads the Dow's Big Gains

It's another strong start to a short week for the markets today, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) is capitalizing on strong economic data. The blue-chip index has lost some of its earlier chart-breaking gains, but it's still hanging on to of 96 points as of 2:20 p.m. EDT. Only a handful of the Dow's 30 components have missed out on the party, while several have made substantial gains. Let's check out the top movers and stories behind the Dow's rise.

Investors feeling confident again
Optimism's on the rise as consumers increasingly believe in the economy's recovery. The Conference Board's Consumer Confidence Index climbed to a five-year high of 76.2 in May, up greatly from April's 69. The housing recovery has helped the economy's fortunes, as home prices rose nearly 11% year over year in March as measured by S&P and Case-Shiller.

The good feelings have helped UnitedHealth Group's (NYSE: UNH  ) stock gain 2.3% to top the Dow today. Despite the uncertainty over health care reform coming next year, UnitedHealth investors found some stability when the company decided not to immediately participate in California's state insurance exchange next year, joining several other public insurers. It's potentially an opportunity lost for UnitedHealth, but with rising premiums due to Obamacare still a concern, America's largest insurer is playing health care reform safely. However, UnitedHealth's caution could be WellPoint's (NYSE: WLP  ) gain. The country's second-largest insurer is a major player in California's individual-insurance market, and if its biggest public competitor is out of the race for millions of previously uninsured consumers, WellPoint could narrow the market-share gap between it and UnitedHealth.

Disney's (NYSE: DIS  ) also having a good day, with shares of the entertainment giant jumping 1.5% so far. The company has been reaping the rewards of its Marvel property in the past few weeks as superhero film Iron Man 3 continues to rock the box office. The movie picked up another $36.8 million at the worldwide box office this past weekend, bringing its cumulative run to a whopping $1.14 billion and making the film the fifth-highest-grossing movie of all time. Between Iron Man and Marvel's The Avengers, which made more than $1.5 billion at the box office, this branch has been a cash cow for Disney lately and should continue its winning ways with more films planned for the future.

Procter & Gamble is (NYSE: PG  ) trailing the Dow today, ranking at the bottom of the index with losses of 1.1%. Investors are still dealing with the fallout of P&G's announced CEO shake-up as former CEO A. G Lafley returns to the company he once presided over. The move sent P&G's stock racing higher last week, but Lafley faces challenges in his comeback. P&G has seen sales fall in certain segments as competition ramps up, and while Lafley intends to continue his predecessor's cost-cutting moves, he'll need to come up with a plan to re-establish P&G's dominance in the consumer market in order for his return to pay off for investors.

Can UnitedHealth thrive in a post-Obamacare world?
When President Obama was re-elected, shares of UnitedHealth and other health insurers fell immediately. Is Obamacare a death knell for health insurers, or is the market missing out on some of the opportunities the law presents? In this brand-new premium report on UnitedHealth, The Motley Fool takes a long-term view, honing in on prospects for UnitedHealth in a post-Obamacare world. So don't miss out -- simply click here now to claim your copy today.


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