The Dow Jones Industrials (DJINDICES: ^DJI ) finished Monday at another record high, rising 19 points and marking the latest in a string of all-time high closes for the venerable average. As the lull between earnings seasons has traders largely on the sidelines, investors are still riding the gentle wave of upward momentum toward new milestone levels for major market benchmarks. Helping to lift the Dow higher today were United Technologies (NYSE: UTX ) and General Electric (NYSE: GE ) , each of which rose in the neighborhood of 1% on Monday.
One of the things that has helped drive industrial stocks like General Electric and United Technologies is their focus on the highest-potential areas in their vast conglomerate businesses. For instance, General Electric has no shortage of industries it could seek to dominate, but for the most part, it has chosen to concentrate on the opportunities in the energy arena to define its future. Today, for instance, General Electric said that it had invested in a Japanese photovoltaic solar-power project, with 32 megawatts of capacity expected to begin producing power in early 2016. The move represents only a small part of General Electric's billion-dollar annual commitment to renewable energy, complementing its exposure to the oil and gas industry and to initiatives to improve the electrical transmission infrastructure. As power needs around the world rise, General Electric aims to become a key player, and moves like its attempt to buy out French giant Alstom only bolster the argument in favor of GE's broader strategy.
For United Technologies, the analogous industry has been aerospace. After United Technologies' acquisition of Goodrich, aerospace now makes up more than half of the conglomerate's overall revenue, when you add up exposure through UTC Aerospace, the Pratt & Whitney aircraft engine and components segment, and the Sikorsky helicopter division. Rising tensions around the world have some national governments taking a second look at planned defense budget cuts, and the boom in commercial airlines has created a lot more demand for new-model aircraft that use United Tech components and systems.
At the same time, though, neither General Electric nor United Technologies has all of their eggs in one basket. General Electric still has wide-ranging exposure to industries including health care, aviation, and its still significant GE Capital division. At the same time, United Technologies' biggest segment by revenue remains its climate, control, and security division, and its Otis elevator business also aims to take full advantage of any improvement in conditions in the commercial construction industry.
The Dow Jones Industrials have plenty of stocks that aren't related directly to the industrial sector. But United Technologies and General Electric are old-school industrials, and they've been doing well enough to satisfy investors hungry for stability and growth in an increasingly uncertain market.
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