There's a simple rule to investing: When consumers are happy, investors are usually happy. That rule worked for the stock market today, with consumer confidence reaching its highest level since February. As more people get comfortable with the prospect of slow but steady job growth, the recovery may finally start to look more like a typical upturn. That positive prospect helped pull the Dow Jones Industrials (DJINDICES:^DJI) up by about 55 points just after 10:45 a.m. EDT.
Among Dow stocks, the drug duo of Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) and Merck (NYSE:MRK) both rose more than 1% in early trading. Both stocks have hit new five-year highs recently, as Pfizer has worked at focusing on its core business in selling off other divisions, including the planned IPO of health subsidiary Zoetis next year. Both companies have pipeline concerns but have been working hard to build up their stables of successful drugs, and their high yields make them attractive dividend plays.
Caterpillar (NYSE:CAT), on the other hand, lost about 2% after it cut its forecast for its 2015 earnings. Although that may seem like a long way out, the cut was a big one -- from $15 to $20 per share in expected earnings to $12 to $18. With interest rates as low as they are, the present value of future earnings is higher than ever, making it important for companies to focus on long-term performance.
Finally, General Electric (NYSE:GE) picked up about 1%. The conglomerate ended up having to change a few of the terms of its deal with MetLife in order to gain exposure to a more favorable regulatory environment, but many now believe that the sale of $7 billion in MetLife bank deposits to GE will go through. That's not a huge deal for GE, but it does mark another chapter in its recovery from the depths of the financial crisis.
Stay healthy, my friend
As painful as a tough economy can be, even cyclically sensitive companies can get through them successfully. For instance, Caterpillar's exposure to China is problematic when China's economy seems to be slowing, but the construction machinery giant has a few aces up its sleeve. Get the details in the Fool's premium report on Caterpillar. With a year's worth of free updates, you shouldn't miss out on this opportunity. Click here to get started.
Fool contributor Dan Caplinger doesn't own shares of the companies mentioned in this article. You can follow him on Twitter @DanCaplinger. 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 Fool has a disclosure policy.