Morning Dow Report: 3M, Boeing Soar After Dividend Hikes; AT&T Falls on Frontier Deal

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.

Given the anxiety among investors about the Federal Reserve's strategy for returning the U.S. economy to normal, it's not surprising to see the Dow Jones Industrials (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) playing a waiting game today, falling 22 points as of 11 a.m. EST. But even though the blue-chip index and broader market measures were quiet this morning, several Dow components posted big moves. Boeing (NYSE: BA  ) and 3M (NYSE: MMM  ) both jumped sharply after delivering capital returns to shareholders, while AT&T (NYSE: T  ) gave up ground despite making an important deal with Frontier Communications (NASDAQ: FTR  ) .

3M jumped nearly 2.2% after making moves to increase both its dividend and its share-repurchase program. Going forward, 3M will now pay $0.855 per share quarterly, up 35% from its previous $0.635 quarterly payout. Moreover, the conglomerate also raised its estimate for stock buybacks, expecting a range between $17 billion and $22 billion in repurchases between now and 2017. With earnings growth expected to come in between 9% and 11% annually over the next four years, and with favorable guidance for 2014, 3M is trying to assure investors that growth prospects are there for the innovation giant going forward. 3M will now yield 2.6%.

Boeing joined the dividend bandwagon, climbing nearly 1% after giving its own positive payout news after the market closed yesterday. Boeing made an even bigger boost of 50% to its quarterly dividend, with its quarterly payout growing to $0.73 per share from $0.485 per share. The aerospace giant also made a buyback move of its own, authorizing $10 billion more to put toward share repurchases. Given how far the stock has climbed, though, even the new payout will barely bring Boeing's yield above the 2% mark.

Meanwhile, AT&T fell 0.9% as it announced a deal to sell its Connecticut wireline business to Frontier Communications for $2 billion. The move will give AT&T more liquidity to support spending on upgrading its wireless network, while also providing Frontier with increased opportunity to tap the substantial cash flow opportunities available from 900,000 phone lines that made up part of the deal. The question is whether Frontier can have greater success in boosting its stock price than it has in the past, and it might well be that AT&T will look like the smarter party in taking the money and running.

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