It's often an encouraging sign of a bull market when stocks are able to recover from early losses to finish higher. That's what happened today, as investors dismissed early concerns about Europe to focus instead on the growing prospects for economic growth domestically. By the end of the day, the Dow Jones Industrials (DJINDICES:^DJI) had managed to eke out a 7-point advance, and while the average continues to flirt with the 14,000 level, many analysts increasingly believe that the market is setting up to make a run at record highs in the near future.
Good news from 3M (NYSE:MMM) definitely helped set a more positive tone for stocks, as the company set an all-time high after announcing an 8% increase in its dividend and a new $7.5 billion share-buyback program. Given that the company's market capitalization is just over $70 billion, the repurchase program could lead to more than a 10% drop in outstanding shares, setting the stage for even further share-price appreciation.
Beyond the Dow, Shutterfly (NASDAQ:SFLY) soared more than 20% on news that the online-photo company saw profits jump 50%. Orders rose by a third during the holiday quarter, but what investors really focused on was the company's full-year guidance for 2013, as it's looking for 16% growth in sales and earnings between $0.38 and $0.51 per share. Shutterfly has come a long way since picking up the online photo business of bankrupt Eastman Kodak, and now, it looks like it's reaping the rewards.
Finally, mortgage insurer Assured Guaranty (NYSE:AGO) jumped 10% after a court found that Flagstar Bancorp will have to reimburse $90 million that Assured Guaranty paid to mortgage-backed securities holders. Investors are looking closely at the case because of the potential impact it could have in much larger lawsuit between MBIA (NYSE:MBI) and Bank of America. Flagstar was found to have failed to meet the loan standards that it agreed to with Assured Guaranty, and if B of A is found to have done the same thing, then it could end up losing its dispute with MBIA.