Blue-chip stocks are headed higher on the first trading day of June following strong monthly sales figures from the nation's largest automakers. With roughly an hour left in the trading session, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI ) is up by 86 points, or 0.57%.
Of all the sectors that suffered during the financial crisis, few came so close to the brink as American carmakers. But the monthly sales figures from May, released by the various vehicle-manufacturers this morning, paint a picture of a recovering industry.
Ford (NYSE: F ) led the way, reporting a 14% year-over-year increase in domestic unit sales. Its signature F-Series pickup trucks were the star of the show, coming in 31% higher than in the same month last year and making for the strongest May sales results since 2005. Chrysler also had a strong showing, reporting 11% growth in overall sales. And General Motors (NYSE: GM ) rounded out the top three, with total U.S. sales improving by only 3% compared to 2012. GM's comparatively disappointing performance is largely attributable to lagging sales of its Chevrolet brand, which were up by only 1% over the same time period last year.
According to The Wall Street Journal, forecasters expect total vehicle sales in the United States to have grown by roughly 7% last month -- although during Ford's conference call today its executives estimated that the figure would come in around 9%.
While optimism about these figures appears to be underlying the market's performance today, a number of other economic reports hit the wire that investors should be aware of. First, data analytics company Markit released (link opens PDF) the final reading of its May purchasing managers' index, which came in at 52.3 last month compared with 52.1 in April. Second, the Institute for Supply Management published figures this morning suggesting that national manufacturing activity contracted in May for the third month in a row. And finally, the Department of Commerce estimated (link opens PDF) that construction spending rose by 0.4% in April after falling by 0.8% in March.
In terms of individual stocks, shares of Intel (NASDAQ: INTC ) are among the best-performing Dow components this afternoon, up by 3.3% at the time of writing. The chip maker has been criticized over the past few years for being late to the smartphone and tablet market, but now appears to be making up ground quickly. On Friday, Reuters reported that Samsung had selected its chips for the upcoming Galaxy Note 3 tablet. Those rumors were officially confirmed today. As my colleague Anders Bylund observed earlier, "This is Intel's first design win in a major mobile product, outside of a few not-so-relevant smartphones and tablets made by Chinese vendors for the Chinese market."
On the other end of the spectrum, shares of Bank of America (NYSE: BAC ) are currently turning in the worst performance among blue-chip stocks, off by 1.7%. The nation's second-largest bank by assets is in the midst of a critical legal hearing in New York to determine whether an $8.5 billion settlement related to faulty mortgage-backed securities will be approved. While it's difficult to predict what would happen if the parties were sent back to the drawing board, it's not unreasonable to conclude that investors in the bank would be displeased, given the additional uncertainty that would then weigh on the stock. To read more about this, check out fellow Fool Amanda Alix's take here.
Bank of America's stock doubled in 2012. Is there more yet to come? With significant challenges still ahead, it's critical to have a solid understanding of this megabank before adding it to your portfolio. In The Motley Fool's premium research report on B of A, analyst Anand Chokkavelu, CFA, and financials bureau chief Matt Koppenheffer lift the veil on the bank's operations, detailing three reasons to buy and three reasons to sell. Click here now to claim your copy.