Nike Helps the Dow Take a Breather After a Three-Day Drop

After a few days of gains and a few days of losses, American markets are getting a little tired of all the volatility. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) is trading up 0.2% at 12:05 p.m. EDT lunchtime after zig-zagging through a narrow pool of red ink in the morning. The landmark index closed out a three-day drop yesterday at roughly the same value -- 16,245 points -- at which it began a four-day move upward from late March. This up-and-down performance has effectively brought the Dow back to the closing level it reached in late January after a Dec. 31 peak. The S&P 500 (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC  ) is also showing modest signs of life after dropping back to its early January levels, with a 0.3% gain in early afternoon.

The Dow's rise is led by Nike's (NYSE: NKE  ) 2.6% pop, which is well ahead of second-place Caterpillar's (NYSE: CAT  ) 1.7% gain. Nike is the latest beneficiary of a wave of analyst upgrades that have buoyed Dow components in recent days, as Stifel Nicolaus boosted the sportswear superstar from hold to buy with a new price target of $87 per share. That gives Nike a purported 19% upside from today's pop, but this is of course a shorter-term analysis of the company's long-term growth prospects -- investors should appreciate the positive sentiment, but not lose sight of the fact that Nike still has a lot of the world left to conquer.

Roughly 335 of the S&P 500's components were trading higher (even if just 0.01% higher) shortly before lunchtime. The index's leaders are on two different ends of the energy spectrum -- First Solar (NASDAQ: FSLR  )  rose 5.7%, while coal producer Cliffs Natural Resources (NYSE: CLF  ) enjoyed a 5.3% pop.

First Solar continues to ride a wave of positive momentum in the wake of its latest financial guidance, but this news is arguably baked in already, so investors may be getting a bit ahead of themselves at this point. The median analyst price target of $61.50 per share is now 13% below First Solar's current share price. Cliffs Natural Resources likewise has no real news-based driver pushing its share price higher this morning, but could simply be the beneficiary of a sentiment-driven short squeeze -- no S&P 500 stock has a larger short interest than this miner.

These stocks don't have the market cap to propel the S&P higher, but two high-tech large-cap winners are helping to drive the index's gains today: Amazon.com (NASDAQ: AMZN  )  rose 2.6%, while Google's (NASDAQ: GOOG  ) (NASDAQ: GOOGL  )  two share classes were up 2.8% and 3%, respectively. Investors are now clearly breaking toward the voting-class GOOGL shares, which are now trading at $556 apiece to the GOOG shares' $553 price.

GOOG Chart

GOOG data by YCharts.

Amazon's up on news that its Prime Instant Video service tripled in use over the past year, and it's now the third-largest streaming-video provider on the country, behind only Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX  ) and Google's YouTube. Google's gains might simply be a reaction to the recent selling wave, but it's going to be interesting to track the divergence of the voting and nonvoting shares -- Google has pledged to pay out the difference should one class fall behind, and this promise could wind up costing billions if the gap is wide enough.

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