Markets End the Day Just Slightly Higher

Economic data was neither great nor terrible today, and as a result, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) managed to post a winning session as it gained 13 points, or 0.09%, and now sits at 15,555. The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq both also posted winning sessions today, rising much more than the Dow, 0.26% and 0.71% respectively.

The economic data was last week's unemployment claims of 343,000, which came in higher than the 336,000 the previous week, and the durable-goods orders for June that came in at 4.2%. This number also happened to be lower than the previous reading of 5.2% for May. But economists had expected unemployment claims to hit 342,000 last week, and were only expecting a 2.3% growth in durable goods. Additionally, May's results had been revised from 3.7%, to 5.2%, which likely explains the large difference between the estimates and the actual result. 

Now, let's take a quick look at three of the components that helped the index move higher.

Shares of Bank of America (NYSE: BAC  ) rose 0.82% today. Yesterday, the company announced that it would be adding two new board members: Pierre de Weck, who was Chairman and Global Head of Private Wealth Management of Deutsche Bank as well as holding senior executive spots at Citicorp and UBS, and Clayton Rose, a former executive of JPMorgan, who now works as a Professor of Management Practice at the Harvard Business School. Bank of America's board will now be comprised of 15 members, and adds to an already strong diverse board. My colleague Erik Volkman commented earlier today that he felt yesterday's announcement may be causing today's move. I agree with him, and feel that, with a larger more diverse board, the bank should have a better chance of steering clear from future financially poor decisions.

On less than usual volume, shares of Chevron (NYSE: CVX  ) rose 1.1% today. Less than 4.5 million shares of the oil giant traded hands today while the average three-month volume is just below 6.1 million shares. The low volume may have played a role in the stock moving higher today as there were likely more buyers than sellers. This idea shouldn't seem too far-fetched, as the stock is still trading for less than 10 times price to earnings, and paying a 3.2% dividend yield at a time when we haven't seen oil make any significant moves lower since the middle of April. Lastly, the stock likely was under buying pressure today after the announcement that China's energy needs will double that of the U.S.'s by 2040. 

Finally, shares of Merck (NYSE: MRK  ) increased by 0.84% today on mixed news. The company announced that it would maintain its current quarterly dividend of $0.43 per share for another quarter, but Forbes is reporting that, based on the most recent data which comes as of July 15, 2013, Merck is now the most-shorted Dow component, overtaking Intel. Despite the large short interest, the announcement that the drug company will maintain its current dividend was enough to help move shares higher, as Merck only experienced slightly more than half its average trading volume, 10 million shares, while the three-month average is 18 million. But, as for Merck, that number is likely distorted to the high end due to a few extremely high-volume days back on June 7, 10, and 11. During those three days, an average of 50 million shares trading hands.

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