These 2 Stocks Are Leading the Dow Higher

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) is up after some positive reports on the economy. Twenty-seven of the 30 Dow components are up today. As of 1:15 p.m. EDT, the Dow was up 154 points to 15,064. The S&P 500 (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC  ) was up 18 points to 1,624.

There were two U.S. economic releases today.

Report

Period

Actual

Previous

Markit U.S. PMI

June

51.9

52.2

ISM PMI

June

50.9%

49%

The Institute of Supply Management's purchasing managers' index rose to 50.9% in June from 49% in May. Readings above 50 indicate expansion while readings below 50 indicate economic contraction, and numbers further away from 50 mean expansion or contraction at a faster rate. June's rise was led by large changes in the New Orders and Production indices.

The employment index fell from 50.1 to 48.7, which is as perversely positive for the markets as it is a negative for employment. As part of its quantitative easing program, the Federal Reserve is purchasing $85 billion worth of assets each month and will continue to do so as long as unemployment remains high. Thus, the drop in the employment index is a good sign for the Fed continuing its purchases. We'll find out more on U.S. employment later this week. On Wednesday, ADP releases its private sector jobs report, and then on Friday the Department of Labor releases the June nonfarm payrolls report and unemployment rate.

Around the world, the Global Manufacturing PMI remained constant at 50.6. The HSBC China PMI dropped from 49.2 in May to 48.2 in June. Chinese manufacturing continues to slow, and investors should be wary of cyclical stocks if this trend continues.

Today's Dow leader
Leading the Dow today is United Technologies (NYSE: UTX  ) , up 2.16% to $94.95. Today, the company's Aerospace Systems division is celebrating the grand opening of its new headquarters in Charlotte, N.C. The division is the company's fourth largest, and in 2012 it made up 14% of sales and 12% of operating profit. Over the longer term, United Technologies is a dividend stalwart that has consistently raised its dividend, which now stands at $2.14 for a yield of 2.3%.

Coming in second for the Dow today is American Express (NYSE: AXP  ) , up 2.20% to $76.40. The company is one of the top four Dow stocks so far this year, having risen 30.9% over the past six months. As I've written about before, American Express benefits from the improving economy more so than its rivals MasterCard and Visa, as the company is not just a payment processor but also extends credit to its customers.

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