The Stocks That Pushed the Dow 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.

What American Express and Walt Disney couldn't do by themselves for the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) , Coca-Cola (NYSE: KO  ) , Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ  ) , and Travelers (NYSE: TRV  ) pitched in and got the job done, pushing the index into the green for the day. Let's first see what happened to the Dow and the other major indexes today, and then we'll look at why those three stocks in particular rose.

The Dow gained 7.71 points, or 0.05%, today after 17 of its 30 components ended the day with a gain. But it was still the worst performing of the major U.S. indexes, as the S&P 500 gained 0.16% and the Nasdaq jumped 0.54%. These moves all came on very little economic news, but all three indexes have been on a three-day upswing following a better-than-expected jobless-claims report on Thursday.

Now let's dig into why Coke, Johnson & Johnson, and Travelers moved higher today.

Coke closed the session up 1.63%, again on very little news. It's possible that investors are reacting to last week's announcement that Coke is taking a 10% ownership stake in Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (NASDAQ: GMCR  ) , now that they've had time to consider the long-term implications. The deal also gives Green Mountain exclusive rights for 10 years to Coke's brand for single-serve products. I think it's a great move for both companies, but after reading my colleague Brian Shaw's piece on the topic, I really see the benefits for Coke. Brian notes that when SodaStream entered the single-serve market a few years ago, no one thought it would work. But with the major soda producers now seeing declining volumes, Coke has essentially beaten its closest competitor, PepsiCo, to a new market segment and growth opportunity. That first-mover advantage should help Coke put some distance between itself and Pepsi, which will allow it to maintain its dominant position within the industry.

Meanwhile, Johnson & Johnson rose 1.14% today, which puts shares just 0.57% lower than were they started 2014. That's good enough to make it the sixth best performing Dow component year to date, while the Dow itself is down 4.67% this year. With volatility on the rise, investors are no doubt attracted to the consistent growth and reliability of J&J's stock price and dividend.

That move toward safety is probably what helped Travelers climb 1.82% today. My colleague Rupert Hargreaves wrote today that the insurance company may be Warren Buffett's next acquisition target. Buffett loves the insurance business because of the amount of cash it throws off, and Berkshire Hathaway already owns other insurance companies, so transitioning Travelers into the Berkshire portfolio would be fairly painless. One great thing about the insurance business, as investors and Buffett both know, is that even if the economy tumbles, property will still need to be insured.

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