On Thursday, the Dow Jones Industrials (DJINDICES: ^DJI ) lost 21 points, but that felt like a moral victory to many investors, as the average had been down as much as 120 points early in the day. Even as investors have enjoyed the second-quarter rally in the Dow, they're also wondering what will provide the catalyst for further upward moves for the rest of 2014 and beyond. Astute investors might have gotten their answer today, with gains from Disney (NYSE: DIS ) and Nike (NYSE: NKE ) showing how a strong consumer goods and services sector could become the driving factor for further advances in the Dow.
Disney rose two-thirds of a percent today, with its intraday stock chart looking a lot like the real-time box score for the Germany-USA World Cup soccer game this afternoon. Disney's ESPN got the good news that the U.S. men's national team will indeed advance to the knockout rounds of the tournament, with the U.S. advancing on a tiebreaker, and helping Disney continue its run of strong ratings for the event so far. More broadly, Disney has repeatedly demonstrated its prowess in obtaining the rights to, and producing valuable content that it can then leverage in many different ways, maximizing its profit potential with its multichannel business. As long as consumers remain at least somewhat financially healthy, Disney should continue to get its fair share of rewards.
Meanwhile, Nike rose half a percent during the regular trading session, and then soared even higher in after-hours trading after reporting its quarterly results. Earnings were better than investors had expected, with gross margins soaring, and helping to pull more of Nike's top-line growth down to the net income line of the income statement. What's somewhat surprising is that Nike is getting most of its growth from its most mature markets in North America, where consumers are turning to the apparel maker for clothing and shoes they can wear not just during athletic activities, but for ordinary use, as well. If Nike can achieve similar results in emerging markets, then it could reawaken its past growth rates and justify even higher share prices for investors.
As the Dow Jones Industrials enter the slow summer months, investors will likely get more nervous about whether a market pullback could be just ahead. If consumer stocks like Disney and Nike keep leading the way higher, though, then the Dow could well extend its gains indefinitely, and ride on the coattails of consumer strength as long as it lasts.
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