At the halfway point of the trading day, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI) was up 32 points (0.25%) to 13,068. The S&P 500 (INDEX: ^GSPC) is up 0.11% to 1,407.
There were two economic releases today that proved positive for stocks: the two parts of the U.S. Department of Labor's productivity and costs report. Productivity rose 2.2% (annualized) in the second quarter, better than the first quarter's 1.6% and above analyst expectations of 1.9%. Productivity growth is a good sign for the economy, as it shows the market is able to produce more goods at lower costs.
Meanwhile, unit labor costs -- a measure of wage inflation -- grew 0.9% year over year. The quarter-over-quarter numbers can be highly volatile, and economists generally look at the year-over-year numbers to determine the trend. The slow growth of unit labor costs signals low inflation for the economy and is positive for stocks.
Stocks around the world rose on the news, and a few of them are leading the way.
Today's Dow leaders
- Today's Dow leader is Disney (NYSE:DIS), up 2.95% to $51.13 -- an all-time high for the stock. Disney reported earnings per share of $1.01, 31% higher than the prior-year quarter and better than analysts’ expectations of $0.93 per share. The great results were driven by The Avengers, which finished the third-highest-grossing movie of all time with $1.5 billion in sales. Already up 36% year to date, Disney looks like a screaming buy to Fool analyst Tim Beyers. Click here for his take.
- Alcoa (NYSE:AA) is up 1.31% to $8.53. Alcoa is a cyclical business, highly dependent on GDP growth for profitability. Today's economic releases are promising for economic growth, which is why Alcoa is up. Alcoa has had a rough few years as the economy has slowed, pushing commodity prices down. Aluminum prices have fallen 30% since April 2011, leaving Alcoa shares in a slump. If China's economy continues to slow, things could get worse for Alcoa. With all the negatives surrounding Alcoa, Fool analyst Sean Williams still believes the aluminum giant will outperform the market. Click here to read his analysis.
- General Electric (NYSE:GE) is third, up 0.78% to $20.67. Similar to Alcoa, GE's business largely fluctuates with the economy. The conglomerate reported earnings in late July that beat analyst expectations on earnings per share and met analyst expectations on revenue. John Reeves and David Meier examined General Electric's earnings and believe the stock is really starting to look interesting. Fool analyst Sean Williams also took a look at the stock and believes it could head even higher.
The best approach
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