Positive economic data has investors jumping back into stocks today after three consecutive down days. China's exports rose 5.1% after falling 3.1% in June. New jobless claims were 333,000, bringing the four-week average down to 335,500, the lowest level since 2007. There may not be a lot of hiring in the job market, but there's not a lot of firing either, which is a good thing right now. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI ) rose 0.24% in late trading and the S&P 500 (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC ) was up 0.45%.
Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT ) led the day with a 2.4% gain after Evercore upgraded the stock to overweight and increased its price target to $38. Yesterday we learned that the company had sold 30,000 Surface tablets to Japanese insurer Meiji Yasuda Life Insurance for its sales force. There haven't been a lot of highlights for the Surface, but it and other tablets powered by Windows 8 have slowly gained traction. I recently wrote that the Surface wasn't the failure many dubbed it to be; when combined with healthy enterprise and office software businesses, Microsoft is still a force in tech.
It should be no shock that Caterpillar (NYSE: CAT ) is up 2.2% today after China's positive trade report. The stock often rises and falls with Chinese reports, but let's remember that demand growth is slowing in China and mining customers are struggling with low prices, which affects Caterpillar's demand. One economic report from China just isn't reason to buy the stock today.
AT&T (NYSE: T ) is the biggest loser on the Dow today, falling 0.9%. T-Mobile reported a strong second quarter, gaining 1.1 million customers and putting up a decent fight against the AT&T and Verizon Wireless duopoly. I don't think this changes AT&T's investment thesis, but there may finally be a competitor innovative enough to make both wireless giants rethink their two-year-contract strategy. Keep an eye on customer growth because that drives earnings over the long term.
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