The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) is down 76 points as of 2:30 p.m. EDT following reports that a Malaysian passenger jetliner has been shot down in Ukraine near the Russian border after the U.S. and EU imposed new sanctions on Russia. With details still emerging on the downed airliner, the market had economic news to digest as well.
Initial unemployment claims fell more than expected last week to 305,000, which is the latest sign of a slowly but surely improving labor market. On another positive note, Thomson Reuters data shows that more than 68% of the 66 S&P 500 companies that have reported earnings through Thursday morning have topped Wall Street expectations. For context, 63% of companies on average have beaten expectations since 1994.
With all of that in mind, here are a couple of industrial companies making the headlines in the markets today.
Inside the Dow, Boeing (NYSE:BA) was dealt a blow from European rival Airbus Group (NASDAQOTH:EADSY) at the Farnborough International Airshow. Airbus launched a major upgrade of its A330 long-range jet, which directly competes with Boeing's 787 Dreamliner. Airbus took a gamble, hoping that its $1.36 billion to $2.71 billion investment -- chump change compared to the cost of developing a complete aircraft -- to upgrade the A330 with new Rolls-Royce PLC engines would generate 14% gains in fuel-efficiency.
Airbus' move to re-engine the plane will enable the aircraft manufacturer to lower the price substantially on its A330 as it competes with Boeing's more expensive 787 Dreamliner.
When speaking of the development to The Wall Street Journal, John Leahy, chief salesman for Airbus' commercial-plane unit, had this to say: "I think they are caught between a rock and hard place. What they basically can't get their heads around is how we did it and how they can answer it."
Boeing and Airbus are locked in a heated battle, and investors would be wise to keep an eye on orders tallied at the end of the week during the Farnborough airshow to better understand sales momentum between the two rivals.
Also inside the Dow, General Electric (NYSE:GE) is gearing up to release its second-quarter report Friday. Analysts are expecting the industrial conglomerate to post earnings of $0.39 per share on revenue of $36.3 billion. Those expectations reflect respective increases of 8.3% and 3.4% compared to last year.
There looks to be a substantial amount of information for investors to digest during General Electric's conference call: the large Alstom deal and its details, a soon-to-be spin-off of GE Capital's North American retail finance, and more. Investors will also be taking a magnifying glass to GE's industrial business, which is continuing to expand as the company refocuses on its core businesses, rather than GE Capital and finance business.
One important piece of information that investors should look for is whether GE is making progress to improve its operating margins. GE plans to improve its operating margins to 17% in 2016, a 130 basis-point improvement from 2013's 15.7%.
Another important figure for investors to watch will be General Electric's order backlog, which was at $245 billion at the end of the first quarter. Though orders from the Farnborough International Airshow won't be added into the figure until the third quarter, it's clear GE's products remain in demand, and the company's order backlog will fuel revenue growth in the short term.
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Daniel Miller has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of General Electric Company. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.