Flood of New Patients Pushes UnitedHealth Higher

Stocks are moving higher today after jobless claims dropped and companies reported somewhat mixed earnings. The number of people filing initial jobless claims dropped 24,000 to 334,000 last week, which is the lowest level since early May. This continues the generally positive employment news, although the labor market isn't improving as quickly as most people would like. Investors used the data point as a reason to bid the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) and the S&P 500 (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC  ) up 0.45% and 0.48%, respectively, late in trading. 

On the earnings front, UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH  ) is up 6.4% after reporting a surprisingly strong second quarter. Revenue jumped 12% to $30.4 billion, while net income rose to $1.44 billion, or $1.40 per share. The big driver was an increase in patients covered, which should continue under Obamacare next year. The company covered 89.2 million people as of June 30, up from 76.6 million a year ago. 

Obamacare will undoubtedly have far-reaching effects for UnitedHealth Group, competing insurers, device makers, hospitals, and many others in the health care industry. The Motley Fool's new free report, "Everything You Need to Know About Obamacare," lets you know how your health insurance, your taxes, and your portfolio could be affected. Click here to read more.

The other big report came from Intel (NASDAQ: INTC  ) , which said revenue fell 5% to $12.8 billion in the second quarter and net income fell 29% from a year ago to $2 billion. That's a big drop-off, and it owes almost entirely to falling PC sales. Intel has to increase its presence in the mobile market or risk the continued deterioration of its business, because there's no bottom in sight for PCs right now.  

That's the bad news, but the upside is that we may be at the bottom of the trough for Intel. Revenue was up 2% from last quarter, and gross margin climbed to 58.3% from 56.2%. The company also recently signed up Galaxy's Tab 3 and has a new line of 14-nanometer chips coming out next year. If those chips catch on, the company will be back to growth in 2014. That said, there are lots of reasons to be cautious about Intel, considering the fall of the PC, and it needs to prove in coming quarters that it can gain share in future mobile devices.


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