The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI ) is trading flat today amid earnings and economic data, up merely 0.18% as of 2:55 p.m. EDT. One bright spot in the economic news was that durable-goods orders rose 3.7% in September from August levels. That's a nice leap ahead of economists' 2.5% estimate, but a surge in aircraft orders covered up weakness in other factory goods. Excluding transportation equipment -- largely nondefense aircraft -- durable-goods orders fell 0.1% last month. With that in mind, here are some movers and shakers in the market, including Boeing (NYSE: BA ) , which has enjoyed the surge in aircraft orders and has helped lead the Dow higher all year.
Boeing's been flying high this year, up 70% year to date, and is continuing to flirt with record-high stock prices today after reporting strong third-quarter earnings this week. It's currently one of the Dow's biggest winners, trading up 1.6%.
Boeing announced today that it will team up with rival Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT ) to compete for a U.S. Air Force long-range strike bomber program. The collaboration is intended to provide unique and more efficient solutions that wouldn't be possible if the companies acted separately.
"Building on decades of manned and unmanned weapon systems experience, we're proud to bring our collection of technologies, capabilities and resources to affordably design, develop, produce and sustain the bomber program," said Orlando Carvalho, executive vice president of Lockheed Martin Aeronautics. "We're confident that our team will meet the well-defined system requirements and deliver a world-class next generation Long-Range Strike Bomber to the U.S. Air Force within the budget and timeframe required."
Investors were glad to see in Boeing's recent third-quarter earnings report that its operating margin jumped 30 basis points to 8.1%. That was mainly driven by the larger increase in the aerospace giant's commercial-aircraft operating margins, which spiked from 9.5% to 11.6%. Investors will definitely want to keep an eye on this going forward, as the margins could decrease as Boeing ramps up production levels on its 787 Dreamliner, which is currently a less efficient and profitable operation.
Outside the Dow, eyes are turning to General Motors (NYSE: GM ) as it prepares to take the stage next week with its earnings report. Many of the same factors that propelled Ford (NYSE: F ) to record-high pretax profits in the third quarter should also bode well for General Motors. Although the company is years behind in pulling in North America margins above 10%, as Ford has consistently done over the previous few quarters, investors hope to see strong full-size pickup sales juice third-quarter margins over last year's mark.
Investors are also hoping the government shutdown didn't dampen vehicle sales in October, which will be the first month of the automakers' fourth quarter. There's evidence that consumers put off vehicle purchases during the shutdown, but we may have escaped major damage.
"It looks like the government shutdown ended just in the nick of time," Jessica Caldwell, a senior analyst with Edmunds, said in an email statement. "The week-by-week data suggests that consumers started to get jittery by the middle of the month. But with the government back to work, most lost sales should be made up in the latter half of the month, and the industry's momentum will continue the pace it enjoyed before the disruption in Washington."
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