The Dow Finishes Higher, but the Bull Market Needs 17,000 Back

The Dow Jones Industrials (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) bounced back from losses earlier in the week, as the release of the minutes from the latest Federal Reserve meeting prompted investors to become more confident that the five-year-old bull market could have further to run before tighter monetary policy takes away some of the tailwinds that have helped push the Dow higher. Yet today's gain of almost 79 points proved insufficient for the Dow to reclaim the 17,000 mark, and as arbitrary as that milestone might seem, the success of the bull market depends on the Dow climbing back above that hard-fought level without a lot of delay. Despite favorable performance from Dow components Disney (NYSE: DIS  ) and Nike (NYSE: NKE  ) today, the Dow's long spell without a major correction still looms on investor sentiment as shareholders try to position themselves for whatever may come for the rest of 2014.


Source: Disney.

Disney gained 1.6%, with the primary catalyst coming despite somewhat tepid analyst coverage from Barclays. The analyst gave the entertainment giant an equal-weight rating, with a price target that's more than $2 per share below where the stock currently trades. More importantly, Barclays believed that a couple of Disney's competitors in the media space deserved more favorable ratings, including network rival Fox. Disney has celebrated successes with its World Cup coverage and the ongoing prospects for blockbuster movie releases that could spur revenue increases across its multiple business lines. Yet the big question Disney faces is whether it will be able to release content directly to viewers, or whether it will have to go through intermediaries to deliver content that could take away some of Disney's profit potential.

Source: Nike.

Nike climbed 1.3%. The athletic shoe and apparel leader made a strategic move today that many are interpreting as marking a key turning point in the industry, as Nike chose not to go after a renewal of its sponsorship relationship with English Premier League club Manchester United. With its current deal expiring in 2015, Nike will reportedly give up the sponsorship opportunity to rival Adidas, with a future decade-long deal potentially costing Adidas as much as 750 million British pounds. Some argue that the decision seems out of place with Nike's emphasis on soccer recently, with Nike's pursuit of World Cup marketing victory having taken a big hit with Brazil's exit yesterday. Yet Manchester United has seen its fortunes weaken in the past year, and it's unclear whether Man U's historical value will bounce back as the departure of former manager Sir Alex Ferguson last year left the club faring poorly during the most recent season.

The 17,000 figure is an arbitrary one for the Dow, but it still has psychological importance. The Dow needs to get back above 17,000 in order to convince investors that the bull market still has legs.

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