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Caterpillar, Home Depot, and Walgreens Lift Dow Jones to Record Even as Visa Stock Falls

By Jason Hall – Aug 11, 2021 at 4:36PM

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A hot economy and high inflation have almost every Dow Jones stock gaining today, pushing the index to a new all-time high.

Another piece of positive economic data, and another record for the Dow Jones Industrial Average (^DJI -0.56%). As of 2:01 p.m. EDT on Aug. 11, the index of 30 of the biggest U.S. companies is up 206 points to 35,470, putting it on track to close at another all-time high today. Today's move higher follows the release of the U.S. Department of Labor's Consumer Price Index Summary early this morning that showed a hot economy continues to drive prices higher. 

This measure of higher inflation being driven by a continued economic recovery has investors especially interested in companies that can benefit from those trends. Heavy equipment maker Caterpillar (CAT -0.30%), retail pharmacy giant Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA -0.46%), and home improvement giant Home Depot (HD 0.95%) shares are leading the way, up 3.4%, 2.5% and 2%, respectively, at this writing. 

On the downside, shares of payments giant Visa (V) are down more than 1% today, joined by many of the Dow's more tech-focused components including Salesforce.com (CRM -8.27%), also down slightly, and Microsoft (MSFT -0.18%), with shares roughly flat today. 

Man looking at smartphone with trading screens on computer in the background.

Image source: Getty Images.

Hot economy, rising prices sending manufacturing and retail stocks higher

According to the latest data, consumer prices were 5.4% higher than last year in July, as tight inventories and strong consumer demand continue to drive prices higher. There was also evidence that the rate of inflation is slowing. CPI -- the Consumer Price Index that measures what consumers pay for goods and services -- was up a seasonally adjusted 0.5% from June to July, compared to 0.9% from May to June. 

Caterpillar is viewed as one of the biggest beneficiaries of the fast-recovering economy, and the slowing rate of inflation is seen as good news for the company. Despite reporting strong earnings in July, Caterpillar's stock has fallen recently, in part because rising material costs are likely to weigh on profit margins for the rest of 2021. If material costs continue to fall, Cat's stock could move much higher. 

Walgreens and Home Depot haven't been impacted by inflation the same way as Caterpillar. For Home Depot, the surging price of lumber has gotten a lot of attention, but the bigger trend of consumers spending big money to improve and update their homes has sent profits surging. The rising prices of homes, and huge demand for them, bodes well for a continued trend of more people spending more money at Home Depot's 2,200+ stores. 

Walgreens is in the midst of a multi-year business improvement, and it has made significant progress so far. Management has focused on actions to improve operations, including utilizing digital technology and growing its online presence. Walgreens is also following the strategy of bigger competitor CVS Health (CVS -0.23%) to become an integrated healthcare business. Part of that plan is to open healthcare centers in many of its stores, an untapped source of future growth to help this Dividend Aristocrat fund a dividend that's yielding 3.8% at recent prices. 

Visa, tech stocks bringing up the rear

Fintech giant Visa, along with Salesforce, are two of only a handful of Dow Jones stocks falling today. For the most part, today's Dow Jones laggards are its more tech-driven components, and frankly there's no clear reason why their shares are underperforming. If anything, it's likely just a product of investors pivoting toward stocks like Caterpillar and Walgreens, and not necessarily turning sharply away from tech. 

Shares of Salesforce and Visa are up around 9% so far in 2021, trailing the broader market but still up as investors recognize the strong franchises they own, and the fact that a recovering economy should be good for their prospects as well. 

Teresa Kersten, an employee of LinkedIn, a Microsoft subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Jason Hall owns shares of Visa. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Home Depot, Microsoft, Salesforce.com, and Visa. The Motley Fool recommends CVS Health. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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