The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI ) had added more than 53 points as of 11:30 a.m. EST. Dow Jones component Verizon Communications (NYSE: VZ ) was the index's top performer. Meanwhile, Facebook (NASDAQ: FB ) and Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL ) were seeing heavy volume.
Inflation stays steady
Inflation data released Monday may have helped to fuel the Dow Jones' rally. The U.S. core Consumer Price Index rose 0.1% in January, in line with economists' expectations. Core CPI is a measure of inflation that removes the price of food and fuel, making it a more stable measure of inflation over time. It is generally regarded as being the Federal Reserve's favored inflation statistic.
If inflation had been growing at a rapid rate, the Fed may have been incentivized to accelerate the pace of its economic stimulus drawdown. As that is not happening, the Fed may stay steady in its gradual tapering strategy.
Facebook makes megadeal
Social networking giant Facebook announced Wednesday that it would purchase WhatsApp for $19 billion in cash and stock. WhatsApp is a popular messaging app intended to replace traditional SMS messages.
Although $19 billion may seem like a great deal of money for an app, WhatsApp has roughly 450 million users and continues to grow at a rapid rate. Facebook has its own messaging alternative, but its built-in reliance on the social network itself makes it less attractive to users. By acquiring WhatsApp, Facebook could eventually conqueror the growing messaging app market.
Apple hit by downgrade
Apple shares, meanwhile, were down about 1% early in the session following a downgrade at Barclays. An analysts at the firm cut his rating on the stock to equalweight, stating that Apple shares should trade range-bound for the forseeable future.
Although Apple is expected to release several new products this year, Barclays believes the company is simply too big to continue its rapid growth. The iPhone remains the darling of Apple's business, and the new products should only complement, not surpass, the device.
Verizon gets analyst support
In contrast to Apple, Verizon was up better than 3% -- a solid gain for such an established business. Jefferies came to Verizon's aid on Thursday, arguing that the recent weakness in shares was overdone and that investors should buy the stock at current levels. Jefferies has a $55 price target on Verizon, suggesting a roughly 15% upside from current levels.
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