U.S. stock markets got back to their winning ways on the back of some positive signals for the economy. U.S. import prices fell 0.5% in April, which met expectations, and the New York Federal Reserve said the amount of debt held by households fell by $110 billion, or 1%, to $11.23 trillion. If the economy is growing, household balance sheets are improving, and unemployment is falling, that's good for stocks, which is why markets are up today. As of 3:15 p.m. EDT the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) has gained 0.61% for the day, and the S&P 500 (SNPINDEX:^GSPC) is up 0.85%.
Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) is one of the Dow's leaders, climbing 2.5% after hedge fund manager David Tepper said he owns shares and has megabanks Citigroup and JPMorgan Chase in his portfolio as well. Tepper was actually bullish on all markets, making the case that Fed asset purchases and a falling federal deficit will drive stocks higher over the next six months. The reduction in household debt didn't hurt Bank of America today, either, because one of the drivers was falling mortgage debt, which was at one time a big risk for the bank.
Shares of Chevron (NYSE:CVX) are up 1.6% despite a 1% drop in the price of oil today. Competitors BP and Statoil were raided by EU regulators over possible oil-price fixing today. Chevron hasn't been implicated yet, so that's a good sign for now. Another factor in the pop today is that Chevron's stock goes ex-dividend tomorrow, meaning that if you hold the stock after the market closes tonight, you'll receive the $1 dividend. This can cause abnormal short-term moves in stocks.
UnitedHealth Group (NYSE:UNH) is one of just a few Dow stocks in the red Dow today, dropping 1.3%. Senators are looking into Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius' fundraising from private parties for promoting Obamacare. It may seem curious that a health insurer would drop on efforts to fight Obamacare, but one of Sebilius' endeavors was to get more people signed up for insurance, which would help UnitedHealth Group. The big upside of Obamacare for insurers is adding millions of people to their rolls, and attempts to stop enrollment efforts could have a negative impact on profits in the long term.
Fool contributor Travis Hoium has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Chevron, Statoil (ADR), and UnitedHealth Group. The Motley Fool owns shares of Bank of America, Citigroup, and JPMorgan Chase. 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.