Morning Dow Report: Will Earnings Rescue the Market?

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 celebrated the beginning of its first earnings season in 2014, with stocks climbing on hopes that the extensive negative guidance that dozens of companies have provided in advance of their official earnings releases will give way to more positive results from the bulk of the market. As of 11 a.m. EST, the Dow Jones Industrials (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) were up 64 points, with Intel (NASDAQ: INTC  ) leading the way higher for the average. JPMorgan Chase's (NYSE: JPM  ) earnings results also helped the Dow somewhat, even as Merck (NYSE: MRK  ) gave up some of its gains from yesterday.

For Intel, which was up more than 3.5%, positive recommendations from JPMorgan and Jefferies pointed to the potential for the chip maker's stock to rise considerably from here. Even though Intel has been slow to get its processors into mobile devices, the company has a considerable pricing advantage as a result of its in-house production capabilities. Indeed, Intel has even identified a possible growth opportunity by making its foundries available to outside vendors, which could open up new ways to boost profits and help the company become even more relevant in the tech sector going forward.

JPMorgan Chase rose less than half a percent despite beating analyst estimates on earnings by $0.06 per share. The bank reported a 7% drop in profit during the fourth quarter, with mortgage originations continuing to decline sharply and poor investment results weighing on overall revenue. Higher marketing expenses also raised some concerns, although profits from consumer and community banking were up due largely from a reduction in loan-loss provisions. As interest rates rise, it'll be increasingly important for JPMorgan to see success in areas like credit card sales volume and consumer lending in order to pick up the slack in more rate-sensitive areas. Moreover, it's unclear whether JPMorgan earnings by themselves will be enough to convince investors that the Dow won't suffer a correction.

Merck fell 1.5% after announcing a voluntary recall of its Liptruzet cholesterol drug, citing packaging defects for the action. Merck said defective foil pouches could allow air and moisture to decrease the effectiveness of the drug, and the company expects to be out of stock of the drug in the U.S. until it can manufacture replacements. In addition, an infant-diarrhea vaccine that Merck makes was found in studies to have slight risks of bowel blockage. The findings won't change the recommendations of health authorities, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but they do note how important it is for Merck and other companies to stay abreast of the safety considerations of their products.

Count on earnings, but focus on the long run
Earnings might well end up pulling the market higher, especially for companies that have set the bar relatively low for success. Yet in the long run, investors need to realize the long-term potential that stocks have to provide strong returns. In our brand-new special report, "Your Essential Guide to Start Investing Today," The Motley Fool's personal finance experts show you why investing is so important and what you need to do to get started. Click here to get your copy today -- it's absolutely free.


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