Today, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) is slowly continuing its upward climb. As of 1 p.m. EDT the Dow is up just 11 points, while the S&P 500 (SNPINDEX:^GSPC) is up about two points.
There were no U.S. economic releases today. The market is awaiting Wednesday's release of the notes from the May 1 Federal Open Market Committee meeting. Investors hope to get more information on when the Fed will slow or stop its quantitative-easing program, in which the Fed is purchasing $85 billion worth of long-term assets each month in an effort to keep rates down and spur the economy.
Two weeks ago The Wall Street Journal's Jon Hilsenrath laid out the Fed's exit strategy. He said the Fed plans to slow purchases depending on inflation and the performance of the economy. That's in contrast to 2003, when the Fed steadily raised rates by 0.25% for 17 straight quarters. The Fed wants to give itself some leeway and avoid surprising investors with whatever action it ends up taking.
On days when there is no real news, you see the underlying trend of the market -- which has been heading straight up this year. Leading the Dow higher today is American Express (NYSE:AXP), up 1.6% to $74.48. The company's stock has risen 30% this year, as American Express benefits from the improving economy. And unlike Visa and MasterCard, American Express is both a payment-processor and a lender, so as consumers spend more and default less often on their credit cards, the company benefits doubly.
Second for the Dow today is Alcoa (NYSE:AA), up 1.3% to $8.72. Alcoa's stock has been weighed down for the past few years by overcapacity in the aluminum industry, as well as slowing demand around the world. The aluminum giant has been cutting production at its highest-cost facilities in an effort to lower capacity and combat the drop in prices. While Alcoa expects worldwide demand to grow 7% this year, that won't mean a thing if supply grows with it.