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Looking at a modest gain in the stock market, it's hard to believe that the Dow Jones Industrials (DJINDICES: ^DJI ) were down by 150 points at one point during today's session. Despite positive consumer sentiment figures, investors seemed nervous about the prospects for future gains for stocks. In yet another demonstration of the bull market's resiliency, though, stocks gradually pared their losses, and by the close, the Dow was actually up three points.
Contributing the most to the Dow's rise today was Travelers (NYSE: TRV ) , which gained almost a full 1% on the day. Income gains haven't been a problem at the insurance company lately, which posted an 85% jump in earnings in its report earlier this week. Travelers' rivals have also posted strong earnings; yet, in light of comments that Travelers made, investors are nervous about how long the strong pricing environment will last. With the bond market having stabilized, though, one source of turbulence for Travelers has subsided, and that's probably part of what's helping the stock today.
Dow strength also came from the PC-generation tech stocks in the average, with Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT ) picking up 0.7%, and Intel (NASDAQ: INTC ) rising 0.9%. What's particularly impressive about the gains is that they come in the face of such harsh conditions for both companies, as the PC era continues to draw slowly to a close. Hedge-fund investor David Einhorn's Greenlight Capital closed out its long-held investment in Microsoft during the second quarter, showing just how frustrated investors have gotten with the company's mixed success in producing growth in both its well-established operating system franchise and newer businesses. Meanwhile, Intel faces many of the same challenges, as it's only now beginning to make modest steps toward establishing itself as a relevant player in the mobile processor space. Unless the companies can start building on their respective successes and use their financial strength to make big gains in important markets, it's hard to see recent share-price gains holding up.
Finally, outside the Dow, Cliffs Natural Resources (NYSE: CLF ) gained 7% after a surprisingly strong quarterly report. Profits fell nearly by half from year-ago levels on a roughly 6% drop in revenue, but both figures were still higher than expected by a substantial margin. Still, the company reduced its guidance for sales volumes for the year, and boosted cost projections. With the shares still down by almost 50% year to date, today's gains aren't nearly as impressive in context as they first appear, and Cliffs will have to work hard to keep improving if it wants to regain more of its shares' losses.
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