2014 Dow Record Count Reaches 4 As Microsoft, Travelers Lead Stocks Higher

The Dow Jones Industrials (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) set their fourth all-time record high of 2014 on Tuesday, climbing almost 20 points and carrying the large-cap S&P 500 to another record close as well. Even though some investors were concerned about a somewhat weak retail sales report for April, others noticed the seasonal aberrations that tough winter weather has produced through 2014 and remain confident that the long-term trend for the U.S. economy is still favorable. Among stocks in the Dow Jones Industrials, Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT  ) and Travelers (NYSE: TRV  ) were the best performers, climbing about 1% each.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

For Microsoft, today's gains came from continued optimism that new CEO Satya Nadella can lead the tech giant into the mobile revolution with greater success. Microsoft's move to offer its Office software products to iPad users has dramatically increased its presence on the iOS ecosystem, and Microsoft could well get sizable subscription-based revenue from the move in the long run. More broadly, of course, Microsoft wants to get people on its own mobile products, but the company's willingness to accept smaller victories and become a wider presence throughout the mobile world could well pay dividends in the long run.

Source: Travelers.

Insurance company Travelers hit another all-time record high of its own today, as investors continue to look at the favorable tailwinds supporting the insurer. Travelers' ascent has been a much quieter affair than Microsoft's, mostly because Travelers doesn't get the high-profile attention that the tech industry does. Yet insurance can be an extremely profitable business, and despite Travelers' all-time high today, its stock carries the lowest earnings multiple of any of the 30 components in the Dow Jones Industrials. One thing investors need to remember about Travelers is that its earnings are somewhat artificially inflated by the extremely favorable loss experience that the insurance industry has seen over the past year, as an almost complete absence of hurricanes last year and surprisingly few types of other catastrophic losses have allowed Travelers to hang onto a lot of its premium income lately. Over time, though, Travelers' profits will likely fall, either because losses will return to more normal levels or because competition from new entrants in the insurance industry will force premiums down and hurt the company's profitability.

For now, the Dow Jones Industrials appear to have the momentum to move higher even in the absence of major news. That's good news for investors, but it's important to keep in mind that such positive sentiment won't last forever. Thinking about how stocks like Microsoft and Travelers can perform in the long run is a lot more useful than worrying about the day-to-day records of the Dow Jones Industrials.

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Dan Caplinger

Dan Caplinger has been a contract writer for the Motley Fool since 2006. As the Fool's Director of Investment Planning, Dan oversees much of the personal-finance and investment-planning content published daily on With a background as an estate-planning attorney and independent financial consultant, Dan's articles are based on more than 20 years of experience from all angles of the financial world.

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8/31/2015 1:41 PM
^DJI $16542.99 Down -100.02 -0.60%
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The Travelers Comp… CAPS Rating: ****