As dysfunctional as Washington has been lately, it looks like at least one of the immediate threats to the nation's economy is going away -- at least temporarily. With House Republicans seeking to increase the debt ceiling for three months -- presumably long enough to have more extended talks about taking steps to make future increases less necessary -- investors felt more optimistic about the chances of recent signs of stronger economic activity taking root and gaining momentum. After trading lower for much of the first half of the day, stocks rallied near the close, and the Dow Jones Industrials (DJINDICES:^DJI) finished with a gain of about 54 points.
The Dow's big winner was General Electric (NYSE:GE), which soared nearly 3.5% after a positive earnings report. The company reported higher profits from all of its business segments, with overall earnings jumping 8% on a 4% gain in revenue. Record backlogs point to further gains ahead. With double-digit percentage gains in its oil and gas and energy management divisions, the strategic direction that GE chose in returning to its industrial roots, while also developing new niche specialties, has paid off, and could continue to do so well into the future.
Beyond the Dow, Life Technologies (UNKNOWN:LIFE.DL) finished with gains of more than 10% after the gene-sequencing specialist took steps to seek a potential buyer for the company. Given the ongoing interest in genomics, and possible applications for a host of different purposes, including diagnostic tests and criminal forensics, Life Tech shouldn't find any shortage of interested parties.
Finally, Research in Motion (NYSE:BB) rose more than 6%, extending its year-to-date gains to a whopping 33%. Today's move likely came from an analyst upgrade of the stock that expressed optimism not just for its upcoming BlackBerry 10 smartphone, but also from the potential to provide software for competing platforms. Investors will have to endure the usual slow sales immediately preceding a new release, but if the BB 10 inspires substantial sales, all of the recent gains in the share price could be justified.
Fool contributor Dan Caplinger has no position in any stocks mentioned. You can follow him on Twitter @DanCaplinger. The Motley Fool owns shares of General Electric. 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 Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.