Given the overall state of the global economy, the markets seem to be defying the odds yet again today. At more than halfway through the trading day , the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) is up nearly 19 points, notching a gain of 0.14%. The underlying optimism appears tied to events here and across the pond.
Grasping at straws
A rare glimmer of good news emerged from Europe today, as Greece's tourism industry appears positioned to post better numbers this year than originally expected. The head of the country's tourism trade association predicts that total tourism-based revenue will fall by only 5% in 2012 -- much less than the 15% decline forecasted in June. Given its famous islands and archaeology, tourism has become a leading economic driver in Greece, accounting for 16% of output and one in five jobs, according to Reuters.
Also playing into the market's performance today is news out of Spain that the continent's third-largest economy is readying a request for help from the European Central Bank. Two weeks ago, the ECB sent markets soaring by announcing a new bond-buying program of unlimited size and duration. To qualify for help, however, a country must formally request assistance from the European Commission. While Spain has been reluctant to do this, given the conditions that will likely be attached to the aid, we should know by next Thursday whether or not the rumors are true.
Finally, there are two pieces of news on the domestic front that are fueling the market's climb. First, contributing to speculation about a housing recovery, KB Homes, one of the country's largest home builders, released its third-quarter results this morning. The company recorded a profit of $3.3 million, or $0.04 a share, and saw its revenue climb to $424.5 million, 15.6% higher on a year-over-year basis. Wall Street analysts had expected the company to post a loss of $0.15 per share on revenue of $301.3 million.
In addition, as every investor and his or her mom probably knows, Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) long-awaited iPhone 5 went on sale today. Pictures of ecstatic Mac-heads grace the websites of virtually every major news outlet. According to the first -- and, arguably, overenthusiastic -- person to get his hands on one: "There is nothing cooler than being first. Now I am gonna go home and unpack it slowly and with joy -- this is gonna be better than sex." I'm not sure what to say about that, but it goes a long way toward explaining why shares of Apple, AT&T (NYSE:T), and Verizon are all higher in intraday trading.
The day's winners and losers
Leading the way up today is AT&T, followed closely behind by Disney, both of which are higher by more than 1%. While the former's ascent appears tied to the iPhone 5 release, the latter's is the result of a new retail channel for Disney merchandise. On Wednesday it was reported that the popular entertainment company had etched a deal with J. C. Penney (NYSE:JCP), in which Disney will provide exclusive merchandise to approximately 500 J.C. Penney stores in exchange for a dedicated floor space. Needless to say, if the deal works out, it could be an extremely lucrative move by Disney.
Leading the way down, alternatively, is Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ). To quote my colleague Matt Thalman: "If you feel like [HP] is constantly one of the Dow stocks moving lower...well, that's because it is." Needless to say, moreover, this trend is likely to continue, as the company sits atop the floundering personal-computer industry.
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