UnitedHealth Could Help the Dow Reach New Heights Today

It's a beautiful day for the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) so far, as the index continues its climb following some excellent news on the trade deficit and a sweet upgrading of health insurer UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH  ) from Deutsche Bank.

The U.S. Census Bureau this morning released data on November's international trade deficit, which dropped to minus $34.3 billion compared to October's minus $39.3 billion. The new value handily beat estimates of a much heftier minus $39.9 billion.

In other feel-good news, Janet Yellen made history yesterday by becoming the first woman selected to chair the Federal Reserve, gaining Senate confirmation by a very comfortable margin of 30 favorable votes. She will take the helm at the Fed beginning Feb. 1.

Upgrade for UnitedHealth puts the Dow in a party mood
The insurance sector gave the Dow a sizable boost earlier today, as analysts at Deutsche Bank upgraded UnitedHealth Group stock from hold to buy.

The firm noted that UnitedHealth has become more assertive in pricing, instituting increases in 2014 and making up for its lack of enthusiasm in that area last year. Deutsche Bank raised the stock target price to $85 per share from $74 -- and, with less than an hour to go before noontime, the stock had already risen to nearly $77. Shortly thereafter, The Street reiterated its own buy rating on UnitedHealth stock, giving it a score of A+.

Investors punish JPMorgan Chase for super-sized settlement
In the banking sector, news that JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM  ) has struck a deal with federal prosecutors regarding its involvement with scammer Bernie Madoff seems to have put off investors, who have sent the stock spiraling downward by more than 1% so far today. The $1.7 billion settlement represents the biggest payout secured so far for charges related to the Bank Secrecy Act. There is some good news, however: The bank won't face criminal charges for two years in the case, as long as it admits wrongdoing and works toward tightening its money controls. Details are expected to be revealed at a press conference in New York later today.

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Amanda Alix

Foolish financial writer since early 2012, striving to demystify the intriguing field of finance -- which, contrary to popular opinion, is truly what makes the world go 'round.

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