Dow Just Does It Despite Nike Drop; Caterpillar Climbs Despite Tax Questions

The stock market started Friday morning off on the right foot, as the Dow Jones Industrials (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) rose another 98 points by 11 a.m. EDT after yesterday's relief rally as investors got more comfortable with the future direction of central-bank monetary policy. Successful bank stress tests also raised confidence levels in the market, though the Nasdaq was down. Even though earnings news from Nike (NYSE: NKE  ) held the Dow back somewhat, positive moves from United Technologies (NYSE: UTX  ) and Caterpillar (NYSE: CAT  ) reflected the generally optimistic mood among blue-chip stocks Friday.

Nike's 3.2% drop came after the athletic-apparel maker reported quarterly earnings last night that disappointed growth-hungry investors. The company noted solid growth of 13% on the revenue front during the quarter, with even bigger gains in Western Europe and emerging markets, and earnings rose $0.03 per share after adjusting for last year's sale of Nike's Cole Haan division. But Nike said earnings growth wouldn't be as strong in fiscal 2015 as investors had expected, citing currency trouble even as the company continues working hard to bolster its worldwide reputation. With Nike's pricey valuation, those future projections carry a lot of weight, and shareholders sold off their holdings on the news.

Still, gains elsewhere overcame Nike's downward influence. Caterpillar rose 1.3% despite reports of an investigation by the U.S. Senate over alleged tax improprieties. According to Bloomberg, the investigation could follow up on allegations made five years ago by a whistle-blowing employee who claimed Caterpillar improperly evaded U.S. income tax by using complex offshore corporate structures and strategies to move taxable income beyond the government's reach. Caterpillar has said it would fight additional tax assessments if they come, but far more important to shareholders is whether the global economy will cooperate in bolstering heavy-equipment sales in key areas of the world, especially China.

United Technologies also rose 1.2% after Goldman Sachs upgraded the conglomerate's stock. The report cited favorable factors helping United Tech's diverse set of businesses, including strength in commercial aerospace following the company's Goodrich acquisition, solid prospects for its defense business, and rising commercial construction that could lead to greater demand for its elevator and HVAC systems. The move is just one example of how a rising economy could keep lifting stocks higher even after five years of bull-market gains.

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