UnitedHealth Scores on Earnings to Carry the Dow to Another Record

We're at new record highs across the market as the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) and the S&P 500 (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC  ) both hit new intraday highs in today's earnings-fueled rise. The Dow's up more than 80 points as of 2:20 p.m. EDT, with UnitedHealth's (NYSE: UNH  ) jump giving a big boost to the index and countering the losses of a few other blue-chip stocks that couldn't beat the Street's earnings estimates. Let's catch up on the earnings stories making waves on the Dow today.

UnitedHealth lifts the Dow
UnitedHealth has dominated the board today, with shares gaining 6.8%. The company easily beat earnings estimates with net income that grew by more than 7% and sales that rocketed 12% higher. UnitedHealth was already the largest publicly traded health insurer before this most recent quarter, but the company has still managed to accelerate the growth in its membership -- a pivotal factor in an industry where bigger is better.

The firm's purchase of Brazilian health insurer Amil Participacoes for nearly $5 billion last year injected a jolt of adrenaline into UnitedHealth's international membership by bringing in almost 5 million new members. Additionally, the company's partnership with the Department of Defense to manage military family insurance -- which the Pentagon says UnitedHealth has handled poorly -- helped bring in another 3 million members for the quarter.

Like the rest of the industry, UnitedHealth will face a great deal of change next year as Obamacare comes into effect. However, between its overseas profile and its size, this may be the best-placed firm to handle the change. UnitedHealth's leadership expressed "strongly positive" sentiments about future growth despite health care reform, and the company raised the low end of its full-year 2013 earnings forecast as well.

UnitedHealth has outshined two other Dow components that just delivered their quarterly results. Intel's (NASDAQ: INTC  ) shares have fallen 3.7% today to lead the Dow lower after the company revealed that its earnings fell 29% in  the most recent quarter. The release also marked Intel's fourth straight quarter of sales contraction, largely brought on by the continued demise of the PC market. The semiconductor maker's PC chip sales fell 7.5% -- a troubling sign, given Intel's reliance on PC chip sales for the bulk of its revenue.

Intel cut back its full-year outlook as well. The company has looked to pivot away from the PC market recently with its forays into Internet television as well as mobile, the latter of which it finally broke into with a deal with major mobile-maker Samsung. If Intel can carve out a niche in mobile, it will go a long way toward reassuring investors that the fall in PC sales can be overcome. It'll be a long process, however: As with any stock, the big picture is what counts. Don't expect Intel to turn around rapidly.

American Express (NYSE: AXP  ) shares are also on a downswing after the company's earnings report, with the stock falling 3.2%. Despite growing consumer confidence in the U.S. -- a trend that helped the company's earnings rise 4.9% to beat Wall Street expectations -- American Express' sales growth of 3.5% failed to best analyst projections.

Unlike Intel's miss, however, this earnings whiff isn't cause for concern. Investors have fretted over a European regulatory proposal that could cap credit card and debit card fees, but AmEx attempted to delay the damage today by saying that the proposed cap wouldn't affect traditional cards issued by the company. In the long term, AmEx looks to be on solid ground despite the concerns over Europe and the revenue miss. So long as the U.S. economy keeps rising and consumers feel confident about its direction, this company won't be missing analyst estimates for long.

The international edge
UnitedHealth's overseas expansion helped its big boom today, but is international exposure the way to go for investors? Global economies are slowly recovering from the recession, but there's no need to search around the world for stocks: Investing internationally is as easy as finding the U.S.' best companies. The Motley Fool's free report "3 American Companies Set to Dominate the World" shows you how. Click here to get your free copy before it's gone.

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Related Tickers

9/28/2016 5:27 PM
^DJI $18339.24 Up +110.94 +0.61%
^GSPC $2171.37 Up +11.44 +0.53%
S&P 500 INDEX CAPS Rating: No stars
AXP $64.22 Down -0.06 -0.09%
American Express CAPS Rating: ****
INTC $37.44 Up +0.26 +0.70%
Intel CAPS Rating: ****
UNH $140.41 Down -0.38 -0.27%
UnitedHealth Group CAPS Rating: ****