What Drove the Dow to Record Highs (Again), As Conn's and Melco Crown Soar

For a seventh time in the last eight trading sessions, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) ended higher on Monday. The Institute for Supply Management's highly anticipated May manufacturing data had a bizarre effect on the market today, as the ISM twice misreported May's reading before finally settling on the 55.4 number, which represented a modest acceleration in growth from April. Closing at an all-time high, the Dow added 26 points, or 0.2%, to end at 16,743.

Home Depot's (NYSE: HD  ) stock tacked on 0.8% Monday, ending as one of the best-performing blue chips in the index. It's hard not to be at least somewhat upbeat on Home Depot, since the $110 billion home improvement retailer is miles ahead of its competition. Paying out a 2.3% annual dividend, the company is growing same-store sales more quickly than its main competitor, Lowe's, and Home Depot is returning billions to shareholders through buybacks this year to boot.

While the Hong Kong-based Melco Crown Entertainment (NASDAQ: MPEL  ) will never achieve blue-chip status, status is overrated. Returns are what matter to investors, and Melco's 3.3% return today made the stock a standout performer. Interestingly enough, it was impressive Chinese manufacturing numbers that buoyed Melco Crown and other Chinese casinos. Gaming investors are on edge about China's economy, which saw GDP grow at a 7.4% clip in the first quarter, its lowest rate in six quarters.

Conn's realizes that financing its own sales is a lucrative business. Image source: Conn's

But the biggest gainer of the three stocks in focus today was Conn's (NASDAQ: CONN  ) , as shares of the electronics store jumped 6.9% Monday. Conn's isn't your average electronics retailer: it hawks everything from major appliances to mattresses to blu-ray players to lawnmowers. On top of that, it's a savvy financier: Conn's extends credit directly to its customers, double-dipping by earning interest on the very debt that was issued to buy its own products! Earnings and revenue in the first quarter both topped expectations, and same-store sales rallied a remarkable 15.6% in the period. Delinquency rates fell, collection improved, and same-store sales are projected to keep rising through 2015.

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