General Electric Strengthens Its Position for Acquiring Alstom and Goodyear Tire Drops Big Announcements

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) was trading 22 points higher, or 0.14%, by midafternoon of June's first trading day. The Institute for Supply Management's manufacturing purchasing managers' index, after two revisions today, came in at 55.4 for May, up from 54.9 in April. Any number above 50 indicates expansion, and May's reading was almost equal to economists' expectation of 55.6.

Investors will now look toward automakers' sales reports for May, to be released tomorrow, for clues regarding consumer spending on big-ticket items. With that in mind, here are some companies making headlines today.

Inside the Dow, General Electric (NYSE: GE  ) bolstered its effort to acquire the energy business of French conglomerate Alstom. Meeting last week in Paris with French President Francois Hollande, GE CEO Jeff Immelt reportedly promised 1,000 new manufacturing and engineering jobs in France within three years of the deal closing.

"Today we can see that GE's offer has been detailed, improved, strengthened," Reuters quoted an official at Hollande's office as saying. The source noted, though, that there was still "some work to be done." 

This is a welcome change of sentiment from France's government, which has thus far vocally favored having GE rival Siemens establish a business alliance with Alstom.

The French government has the authority to block the deal, and it is likely attempting to get the most out of GE's bid as possible. Make no mistake, this is largely a political game, which General Electric has played before; expect it to drag on for a bit longer before a decision is made. This purchase makes a lot of sense for General Electric; if the company can ease France's worries about the sale hurting the country's position in the energy sector, the deal could close sooner than expected.

Outside the Dow, Goodyear Tire & Rubber (NASDAQ: GT  ) announced late last week that it plans to increase its quarterly dividend on its common stock by 20%, from $0.05 to $0.06, in September 2014. It also committed to increasing its share repurchase program by $350 million while allocating an additional $450 million toward reducing debt. The move was made possible after Goodyear posted strong cash flow for full-year 2013 which enabled the company to pay off its entire pension fund of $1.15 billion.

"This updated capital allocation plan for 2014-2016 reflects Goodyear's commitment to balancing all our priorities -- returning cash to shareholders, investing in high-return growth projects and achieving investment grade metrics – to drive long-term shareholder value consistent with our articulated strategy," Chairman and CEO Richard J. Kramer said in a press release.

Goodyear is also investing $500 million to construct a new plant to help meet rising demand for its tires in North America and Latin America. Goodyear also reaffirmed its target of 10%-15% increase in annual segment operating income between 2014 and 2016. 

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