Will the Fed Rain on the Dow's Morning Parade?

Stock-market investors are seeing good news for the economy as good news for stocks this morning, as modest but marked improvement in GDP growth and private-employment figures helped give the markets greater optimism that the U.S. economy is recovering. Given those headline numbers and some favorable news on the earnings front, the move away from bonds and gold toward stocks continued, with broad-based advances across the stock market pushing the Dow Jones Industrials (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) up about 100 points as of 11 a.m. EDT -- a new all-time high if the average can maintain this level until the bell. Yet the Federal Open Market Committee finishes its two-day policy meeting today, and its announcement at 2 p.m. EDT could either accelerate or reverse this morning's gains.

Within the Dow, UnitedHealth (NYSE: UNH  ) has advanced 1.5%. Rivals Aetna and Humana reported favorable results in their respective second-quarter reports. Aetna benefited from its purchase of Coventry Health, while Humana cited gains in both its employer-plan and individual-policy business units, as it relies on its Medicare Advantage offerings for the bulk of its revenue. Results across the industry have reflected reduced use of medical services among insured individuals, and if that trend continues, it should help UnitedHealth and its peers do well, even with future pressures coming from Obamacare.

On the other side of the coin, Verizon (NYSE: VZ  ) is down 0.5%, following through on yesterday's losses in the wake of a positive investor reaction to rival Sprint's earnings report. In addition to increased competition from the No. 3 carrier, Verizon faces a battle in its efforts to expand into Canada, as labor unions have expressed concerns that Verizon could get favorable treatment in wireless-spectrum auctions planned for early next year. The negative sentiment may keep Verizon out of the Canadian market after all, closing off one avenue for the company to grow beyond the increasingly saturated U.S. market.

Finally, outside the Dow, SodaStream (NASDAQ: SODA  ) has soared 12.7% after announcing record earnings in its most recent quarter. The company said net income rose by 36%, due in large part to retail sales from Wal-Mart that helped push overall revenue up by 26%. Especially noteworthy was the fact that gas refills and soda-flavoring sales rose by 28% and now make up almost 60% of total revenue, suggesting that owners are actually using the machines, rather than letting them sit in closets. SodaStream boosted its revenue and net-income growth forecasts for the remainder of the year, which bodes well for investors going forward.

UnitedHealth's big move in light of positive results should make investors feel more comfortable about the industry, but will Obamacare's effects cause a sudden reversal of fortune for the sector? Get the answers you need in The Motley Fool's new free report, "Everything You Need to Know About Obamacare," which will tell you how your health insurance, your taxes, and your portfolio could be affected. Click here to read more. 


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