Strong Earnings Push Coca-Cola and Johnson & Johnson Higher to Lead the Dow

The major U.S. stock indices are all back in the green in late trading following strong earnings from two of the best-known companies in the world. Coca-Cola (NYSE: KO  ) and Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ  ) reported slightly better than expected quarterly numbers, causing both stocks to pop.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  )  had risen 0.51% after an up and down day. Fresh economic reports out today showed a 0.2% rise in the Consumer Price Index last month and a slight rise in homebuilder confidence at 47, still indicating that a majority of homebuilders see a poor market.  

Broadly, economic data has done little to inspire investors, although earnings continue to march higher.

Earnings season roars on
Johnson & Johnson surprised a lot of investors and analysts today in reporting a 3.5% increase in revenue in the first quarter, to $18.12 billion, and an 8% rise in adjusted earnings to $4.43 billion, or $1.54 per share. Both figures beat estimates.  

Prescription drugs were the most impressive with an 11% jump in revenue to $7.5 billion. The patent cliff hasn't hurt the company as much as expected, and we may be seeing the benefit of having more insured patients via Obamacare.

Coca-Cola is now being driven by healthier drinks like Minute Maid versus traditional Coke.

The best news of the day was an increase in forecast profit this year -- a range of $5.80 to $5.90 per share, up $0.05 from January.

Over at Coca-Cola, the slow decline of its traditional business continues, but the company beat expectations nonetheless. First-quarter revenue dropped 4% to $10.58 billion and net income fell 8.5% to $1.62 billion, or $0.36 per share.  

Global soda sales fell of the first time in 15 years in the first quarter, but volume of noncarbonated drinks such as Minute Maid, Powerade, and Honest Tea was up 2%.

The other challenge Coca-Cola faces as a global company is the strong dollar. Revenue would have grown 2% last quarter if it weren't for currency changes. If the dollar continues to be strong you can assume that this trend will continue.

The bottom line is that earnings look solid, if not spectacular, for the Dow so far in 2014.

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