It's safe to say that there's only one thing on most investors' minds today: the U.S. election. While many Americans have already voted, the vast majority go to the polls tomorrow to decide whether President Obama will get a second term in office or be replaced by Mitt Romney. With this in mind, it's no surprise that the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) is largely directionless today, down a marginal 19 points, or 0.15%, in intraday trading.
Political differences aside, many analysts are predicting that the stock market will rally following the election irrespective of who wins. In a note to clients issued last week, the chief U.S. equities strategist at JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM) Thomas Lee, noted that: "We are less than a week away from presidential and congressional elections, and there has never been an election where the spread between polls is 100bp (seven elections since 1900 were between 2% and 5%). Historically, equity markets have rallied following a close election, regardless of the winner (incumbent or challenger), likely benefiting from the reduced uncertainty."
Aside from the election, the biggest economic news today is that the domestic services sector grew at a slower pace last month than in September. The Institute for Supply Management's non-manufacturing purchasing managers index fell to 54.2. While this was 9 basis points less than the previous month and came up shy of economists' estimates, it nevertheless suggests that economic activity in the services sector grew for the 34th consecutive month, as a reading above 50 indicates expansion.
On the individual company front, shares in technology stocks are the highest among Dow stocks today, with Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ) and Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) trading higher by 1.6% and 0.8%, respectively. It was reported earlier today that Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), the country's largest company by market capitalization, sold 3 million units of its new iPad mini and fourth-generation iPad over the debut weekend. Despite this, Bloomberg noted today that the technology giant's share of the tablet market slipped to roughly 50% in the third quarter, down from 66% in the preceding three months -- though that figure is bound to go back up now that the iPad mini has hit the market.
Also today, United Airlines (NASDAQ:UAL) completed the first domestic flight with Boeing's (NYSE:BA) new 787 Dreamliner. The composite plastic jet is significantly lighter and more efficient than its predecessors and accordingly offers airlines the chance to save on fuel costs. Boeing estimates that the new aircraft is 20% more fuel-efficient than similar-size planes, and because of its body, United is expected to save 30% on air-frame maintenance expenses. According to United's chief executive officer, Jeff Smisek: "If you want to be the world's leading airline, then you need the world's leading airplane, and we have that."
Finally, shares in Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) are trading lower this morning. It was reported over the weekend that the nation's second-largest bank by assets may face a less severe capital burden than originally estimated. Because of its size, Bank of America has been termed a "systematically important financial company," and must accordingly hold more capital than smaller financial companies. While many expected the capital buffer to come in at roughly 2% and 2.5% of risk-weighted assets, the Financial Times reported that regulators are now saying it may be closer to 1.5%. If true, this could open the door to a dividend increase in the near future -- which would serve as a massive catalyst for an increased share price.
The Foolish bottom line
Make no mistake about it, for better or for worse, the election will drive the market for the remainder of the week. To learn about one company that's at the center of it all, check out our in-depth report on Bank of America. In it, our senior banking analyst Anand Chokkavelu explains why its shares could "double or triple over the next five months." To access this report instantly, simply click here now.