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A common piece of advice -- running the gamut across disciplines as diverse as sports, academics, and the workplace -- is to never set the bar too low. Challenging yourself drives performance. But that maxim doesn't seem to translate to the insular world of Wall Street. Today the International Monetary Fund trimmed its global growth prospects, and stocks jumped, posting their fourth consecutive day of gains.
While some investors may have been betting that global economies can grow faster than the 3.3% IMF projection, the 1.8% earnings growth figure domestically is an easier target to eclipse as second-quarter earnings season begins. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI ) gained 75 points, or 0.5%, to close at 15,300.
Caterpillar (NYSE: CAT ) was the top blue-chip performer today, jumping 2.6%. The mining and construction equipment provider smiled upon higher gold prices today, as the precious metal posted a second straight day of gains. Gold is frequently used as a currency hedge against inflation; Tuesday's report from China that the country's consumer price index rose more than expected stoked the feeling inflation is rising, a bullish signal for gold bugs and for mining equipment makers such as Caterpillar.
Tech mainstay Cisco Systems (NASDAQ: CSCO ) also surged, adding 2.2% Tuesday. The networking technology giant announced a new joint venture with Microsoft yesterday to roll out new cloud infrastructure for businesses around the world. The partnership aims to help "align sales teams and channel partners," according to the press release, with Cisco lending its expertise and reputation for quality data centers as an additional offering.
On the bearish end of the index, Verizon Communications (NYSE: VZ ) lost 0.4%; telecommunications ended as the only sector in the red today, so it's not terribly surprising. A Wall Street Journal piece yesterday covered a seldom-discussed aspect of the landmark Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation -- an aspect that could be a big headache for Verizon. The law, which becomes enforceable next May, will require companies to ensure that suppliers of parts including tantalum, tin, tungsten, and gold aren't getting those materials from high-conflict areas. Critics say tracking core components back to their original source is asking for transparency in the supply chain that's nearly impossible in practice.
Lastly, IBM (NYSE: IBM ) fell 1.9%, posting the largest losses in the Dow. Today's slip shows the power that Goldman Sachs wields on markets: The investment bank downgraded shares of the IT powerhouse from "buy" to "neutral," citing potentially declining margins. Investors will see how prescient Goldman's thesis is next Wednesday, when IBM reports quarterly earnings.
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