The Dow Follows Manufacturing Higher

A strong showing from the Institute for Supply Management's Purchasing Managers' Index for July has helped the markets roar back today. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) has picked up more than 100 points as of 2:15 p.m. EDT, with most blue-chip stocks on the index in the green. Unsurprisingly, several of the Dow's leading manufacturers are leading the way to today following the PMI's positive data. Let's check out the stories you need to know.

Manufacturing's big day
The U.S. PMI roared up to a reading of 55.4% for July, well above the 50% mark that indicates neither expansion nor contraction in the manufacturing sector. Production has taken off among manufacturers, soaring to 65% mark with a double-digit increase over June's result. New orders and supplier deliveries both picked up, and, perhaps most important to the perception of the American economy's comeback, manufacturing employment jumped by nearly 6% after contracting in June.

That optimism has buoyed Caterpillar's (NYSE: CAT  ) stock today: Shares have gained more than 2.1%. Caterpillar has struggled with a weakening Chinese market and a recently downtrodden European economic situation, which have come together to crimp the company's financials. The firm's earnings fell more than 40% in the second quarter as sales dropped sharply, but today's strong PMI result shows that the U.S. situation may be Caterpillar's best shot at bouncing back in the near future. The company has remained on top of its industry despite its fall, so Caterpillar's hardly in a weak position among its rivals.

Boeing (NYSE: BA  ) is also making big gains today, with shares of the aerospace giant up 1.7%. It's joined by fellow military supplier United Technologies (NYSE: UTX  ) , which has gained 1.8% on the day. Both firms have gained on the PMI's strong showing, as both are closely tied to the industrial sector. However, the two companies have also made inroads on big federal contracts recently. Boeing scored a $2 billion contract to build 13 P-8A surveillance aircraft earlier this week, bolstering a defense segment that has some investors concerned, considering the military cuts that will likely go on throughout the coming decade.

UTC, meanwhile, is close towinning the bid to supply the next presidential helicopter. Boeing and Italian firm AgustaWestland both have pulled out of the race, leaving UTC's Sikorsky subsidiary and its S-92 helicopter as the last bidder standing. The contract for the presidential helicopter will likely run into the multibillion-dollar range, providing a nice boost to Sikorsky's top line.

One industrial firm on the Dow isn't seeing much benefit from the PMI's reading, however. Shares of Alcoa (NYSE: AA  ) have hardly budged, advancing just 0.3% on the day. While the overall PMI soared, the ISM reported that aluminum prices continued their downswing for the month as the market deals with oversupply and weak demand. Alcoa has shuttered factories and pivoted toward manufacturing finished aluminum goods in recent quarters, but until the aluminum market rises and prices bounce back, expect more downbeat outlooks from this firm.

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