Evening Dow Report: Why Consumer Giants Led Stocks Higher Today

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 Jones Industrials (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) bounced back from yesterday's declines, rising almost 110 points. But more interesting than the Dow's gains themselves was where they came from, with consumer stocks Nike (NYSE: NKE  ) and Disney (NYSE: DIS  ) leading the way, joined by industrial giant Caterpillar (NYSE: CAT  ) .

Nike rose more than 3%, which was all the more surprising because rival Under Armour (NYSE: UA  ) posted amazing results that lifted the stock by 23% today. Ordinarily, you'd think that the success of one athletic-apparel maker would necessarily mean failure for others. But Nike's gains reflect the ongoing increases in popularity of sports and, at least for now, there's more than enough money chasing after various sports opportunities to give Under Armour, Nike, and several other major players in the industry room to grow well into the future.

Along the same theme, Disney climbed 2.7%, perhaps reflecting the importance of its ESPN cable network to its overall operations. The rise of ESPN has mirrored the rise in sports generally and, despite steadily increasing costs to acquire sports content, ESPN has commanded unparalleled bargaining power among cable providers and other content-delivery companies to ensure a constant flow of sports programming. Combined with Disney's other extensive ventures, the stock's gains appear justified, especially in light of recent declines during the Dow's stutter-step downward.

Meanwhile, outside the consumer space, Caterpillar gained 2.9%. The heavy-equipment maker's move came after the company quickly completed its existing stock-buyback program with an accelerated repurchase amounting to $1.7 billion. With a new $10 billion program about to take effect, Caterpillar pointed to its ability to use its extensive cash flow to complete the previous buyback program, even though that program still had two years left to run. Caterpillar is betting hard on its share-price declines being cyclical and, if it's right, shareholders who hang onto their stock could earn big rewards.

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