Dow Morning Report: Microsoft, Chevron Lift the Dow as Nike Stumbles

Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over daily movements, we do like to keep an eye on market changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.

The Dow Jones Industrials (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) climbed as much as 120 points shortly after trading began this morning, putting the average on pace to set an all-time record high. As of 11 a.m. EST, the Dow has dropped back somewhat to a 66-point gain, with Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT  ) and Chevron (NYSE: CVX  ) among the biggest gainers, while Nike (NYSE: NKE  ) held the average back.

Microsoft has soared almost 3% on news that the company has made progress on a number of key fronts. Reports that the tech giant has created a short list of CEO candidates to replace Steve Ballmer raised hopes for a smooth transition, with speculation still swirling about whether Microsoft will go with an industry expert, like Nokia's Stephen Elop, or a turnaround specialist from outside the industry, such as Ford's Alan Mulally. At the same time, Microsoft got an analyst upgrade from Nomura, which cited the potential for earnings growth if the company engages in a massive restructuring that would involve exiting or spinning off certain divisions and deploying cash toward share buybacks.

Chevron has climbed 1.7% after its $19 billion court case over alleged environmental contamination in Ecuador saw an interesting twist yesterday. In testimony before a U.S. federal court, the judge who ordered the massive judgment seemed to know little about the details of his own order despite asserting that he wrote his ruling without outside assistance. Chevron contends that the judgment shouldn't be enforced, accusing the original plaintiffs of misconduct in obtaining the decision through bribes, extortion, and other means. The testimony seems to support Chevron's case, and getting the judgment out from over the company's head would put investors much more at ease with the energy giant's future.

Nike is missing out on the Dow's record run, falling more than 1%. It's hard to find much fault with the athletic giant's overall performance, though, as the pullback comes after months of record highs for Nike. Uncertainty about the company's ability to stay ahead of the curve in wearable computing could threaten one small piece of Nike's business. But from a broader perspective, Nike has been able to keep its growth trajectory pointing squarely upward and appears poised to take advantage of any improvement in the global economy going forward.

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