Morning Dow Report: UnitedHealth, Boeing Send Stocks Flying; Spectrum Wars Continue

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.

A week into 2014, investors were getting nervous about the inability of the stock market to produce lasting gains. Today's action, though, showed a cheerier side of the markets, with the Dow Jones Industrials (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) soaring 121 points as of 11 a.m. EST. The latest news on the U.S. trade deficit showed that weak import activity sent the deficit to its lowest level since late 2009. Because trade numbers are one component of gross domestic product, the results could send GDP figures for the fourth quarter higher, stoking enthusiasm about the economy. UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH  ) and Boeing (NYSE: BA  ) were both among the stronger gainers in the Dow today, while AT&T (NYSE: T  ) and Verizon (NYSE: VZ  ) remained close to unchanged as the ongoing efforts to deal in valuable spectrum continued today.

UnitedHealth soared more than 3% after announcing its own online health care shopping service. With features including appointment booking, up-front payment processing, and discounted prices, UnitedHealth is rolling out the service to its high-deductible health plan clients, giving customers more incentive to consider the plans for their own health insurance needs. Yet the bigger question for the stock, which hit an all-time high today, is whether its efforts to differentiate itself from rivals will actually help UnitedHealth stand out from the crowd, especially in light of health care reform efforts that have created some unintended consequences. Still, the company's strategy of moving forward on multiple fronts gives it some diversification in case any one of its initiatives doesn't go as well as hoped.

Boeing gained almost 2% on reports that airline SpiceJet had ordered roughly 40 737 MAX aircraft worth more than $4 billion. Combined with news yesterday that Boeing had a record year in delivering aircraft during 2013, the company has started to demonstrate its ability to deal with the extremely high volume of orders for its various new and updated models. If it can continue to execute well, Boeing has plenty of further gain potential ahead.

Finally, AT&T and Verizon continue to make various spectrum deals. Today, AT&T acquired spectrum from Aloha Partners to boost its coverage in 14 states, potentially providing coverage for nearly 50 million people. That deal followed yesterday's decision from Verizon to sell spectrum assets to T-Mobile, in exchange for almost $2.4 billion in cash and other spectrum assets worth an extra $950 million. As wireless networks aim to provide the best coverage possible, you can expect to see continued transactions among major carriers to make the most of the limited resources they have.

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