Markets aren't screaming higher today, but a slightly better-than-expected reading of jobless claims in the U.S. has still pushed stocks higher for the day. The number of Americans filing initial jobless claims fell 7,000 from last week to 340,000, below economists' forecast of 353,000. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) has responded by rising 0.26% to another new high as of 3:25 p.m. EST, while the S&P 500 (SNPINDEX:^GSPC) is up 0.21%.
Boeing (NYSE:BA) is leading the way today, climbing 2.4% on hopes that the FAA will allow the company to conduct test flights of the 787 Dreamliner aircraft soon. Before we get our hopes up, the National Transportation Safety Board said this morning that it still hasn't identified the cause of the 787's battery fires, so we still don't know what the original problem was. After everything that has happened with the 787, Boeing's stock is near a 52-week high, and traders may be getting ahead of themselves, bidding up the stock on any rumor of good news. Boeing will still see major delays because of battery problems, and that will have a financial impact in 2013.
Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) is up 2.6% today ahead of the release of the Federal Reserve's stress test results. Investors have been bidding up shares in hopes that Bank of America will be able to return cash to investors in the form of a larger dividend or share buybacks. This is the first of a two-part test that will be completed next week when the Fed says how it thinks banks would be capitalized if they spent capital on dividends or buybacks.
On the downside, Merck (NYSE:MRK) has fallen 0.9% after the company announced it would replace research and development head Peter Kim with Amgen's former research head, Roger Perimutter. Perlmutter presided over Amgen's research when Epogen and Aranesp ran into safety concerns, so his record isn't exactly flawless. It'll take years to determine whether this is a good move or not, but for now investors are selling the uncertainty it brings.