Banking's Boom Keeps the Dow On Track for 100-Point Gain

JPMorgan and other bank stocks surge behind great results from Bank of America, while Microsoft leads tech stocks higher on a good day for blue-chip investors

Jan 15, 2014 at 2:30PM

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 surging Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) today is pulling in the kind of highs investors have gotten used to over the past year's run-up. As of 2 p.m. EST, the blue-chip index is up by more than 120 points.

Just a few member stocks are in the red today, as a big earnings report from former Dow member Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) has kicked financial stocks higher, with JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM) leading the sector on the Dow. Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), meanwhile, is the index's top stock overall. Let's catch up on what you need to know.

Wall Street wins relief
JPMorgan released its earnings report earlier in this week, but the stock's getting a big lift today after one of its top rivals sparked a wave of optimism around the banking industry. JPMorgan's stock is up 2.5% following Bank of America's announcement that its revenue jumped 15% for the fourth quarter, with net earnings per share roaring higher to $0.29 -- beating analyst expectations by a full $0.03. That's much better than the minuscule figure the company posted a year ago, when one-time costs weighed down its performance.

In a good sign for the sector at large, Bank of America's mortgage losses in the quarter fell to just $1.1 billion -- down from $3.7 billion a year ago. It's a big indication that BofA's climbing over the lingering aftermath of the recession.

Considering that JPMorgan also managed to top analyst expectations on both the top and bottom lines despite some hefty charges this past quarter, today's news is a burst of momentum for the bank's stock and a push for the big banks going forward. Even though mortgage demand remains depressed -- JPMorgan's bushiness is sluggish and BofA reported home loans down 49% compared to the past quarter -- getting past litigation and other charges that have weighed on banks is a critical piece of moving forward.

Microsoft has gained 2.5% on the day to lead the Dow Jones' 30 member stocks. Rumors are swirling that Microsoft is focusing on preparing a new operating system that could be announced in April, with a Windows 9 possibly out in 2015. It's speculation so far, but it'd be a welcome respite for Microsoft investors who have been shaking their head over the performance of Windows 8. Windows 8 shook up the company's traditional operating system look, jarring some customers and leading to criticism that forced the tech behemoth to release a sizable 8.1 patch.

A successful new OS from Microsoft could easily push investors and industry observers to forget all about the previous iteration's flop. While Microsoft has a ways to go in becoming a dominant player in the mobile market -- a niche that Windows 8 was supposed to assist in capturing -- the company is still dominant in software, and Windows 8's performance hasn't changed that. Microsoft's Windows division posted a revenue gain of more than 37% in its most recent quarter, and with its server and tools group and business division -- its largest two businesses by sales -- pulling down excellent growth, this company can overcome muted reactions to Windows 8 and keep moving higher.

How big Bbanks can earn you big profits
Around the Dow, JPMorgan Chase and bank stocks are big winners today, but should you trust the financial sector in the wake of the recession-even with its strong gains as of late? Many investors are terrified about investing in big banking stocks after the crash, but the sector has one notable stand-out. In a sea of mismanaged and dangerous peers, it rises above as "The Only Big Bank Built to Last." You can uncover the top pick that Warren Buffett loves in The Motley Fool's new report. It's free, so click here to access it now.

Fool contributor Dan Carroll has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Bank of America. The Motley Fool owns shares of Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, and Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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