How Intel and Caterpillar Became the Dow's 1st-Half Winners

Monday marked the end of the second quarter, and the Dow Jones Industrials (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) failed to rise to the occasion, falling 25 points. The Dow has had a fairly flat performance so far in 2014, gaining just over 1% and making many investors question whether the bull market has the staying power it would need to provide the sixth-straight year of positive returns for the Dow. Yet even amid the lackluster gains for the Dow overall, Intel (NASDAQ: INTC  ) and Caterpillar (NYSE: CAT  ) have helped the Dow avoid losses for the year, with each of the Dow components gaining more than 20% in the first half. Let's take a closer look at how they did it.

INTC Total Return Price Chart

Total Return Price data by YCharts

Source: Intel.

Intel's gains have stemmed from the fact that the chipmaker has been in the right place at the right time, with a confluence of positives helping to bolster the tech giant's future prospects. On one hand, Intel has finally stepped up to the plate in the mobile space, with efforts to create viable chips for both high-end applications as well as more affordable lower-end devices that can help to meet demand in emerging markets where cost is a much more important concern. At the same time, though, Intel got a positive surprise from a product-upgrade cycle, with older PC users finding themselves having to upgrade in order to keep getting support for key operating-system software. PC sales aren't likely to sustain their upward track for long, but efforts in the direction of becoming a bigger player in mobile could serve Intel well for years to come.

Caterpillar's jump, meanwhile, has come as investors finally concluded that the maker of heavy equipment had just about hit bottom. After years of sluggish construction-equipment sales, the plunge in commodity prices last year sent mining-equipment demand through the floor as well. But equipment dealers have started to see signs of life from their customers, with government spending starting to pick up and a tight rental market making new-equipment purchases look more attractive on a relative basis. Caterpillar still needs to see improvement in economic conditions in other key markets, especially China, but after long periods of underperformance, Caterpillar stock might finally be making the run shareholders have waited for.

Investors in the Dow Jones Industrials would obviously like to see better performance from the average in the second half. For shareholders of Dow components Intel and Caterpillar, though, just holding onto the first half's gains would be victory enough for a solid 2014.

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