Strong economic data reports were released today, and for the most part investors seem to like what they see. As of 12:45 p.m. EDT, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) was up 33 points, or 0.22%. The S&P 500 and the NASDAQ were also higher, up 0.34% and 0.22%, respectively, but all the major indexes have pulled slightly back from their highs of the day, which were hit just before 12 p.m. EDT.
U.S. auto sales experienced a nice bump higher in May, as Ford reported light-vehicle sales rose by 13% in the month, which helped the automaker experience its best June in nearly seven years. All the while, GM managed to post solid numbers as it realized vehicle sales increase of 6.5% in the month, which was the company's best performance in nearly five years.
In addition to the positive auto reports, U.S. factory orders rose in May by 2.1%, which was an increase from April's revised 1.3% rise. We are now seeing evidence that manufacturing is coming back as we have now experienced three straight months of improving data.
One would think with the strong factory report that Boeing (NYSE:BA) and General Electric (NYSE:GE) would both be jumping higher, not topping the Dow's losers list, but they are indeed. Shares of Boeing are down 1.08%, and General Electric is lower by 0.90% this afternoon. The report indicated that demand for aircraft rose 51% in May, which came after an 18.4% rise in April and a drop of 43.3% in March. The only reasonable explanation for Boeing moving lower today is that investors were expecting a higher increase in May. But, even if May didn't wow investors, we would expect next month's report to come in big again, as the Paris Air Show was in June and preliminary reports indicated that Boeing inked a number of big deals during the exhibit.
As for General Electric, durable goods orders and power generation equipment also both increased in May -- two areas of industry that GE operates in -- but the stock is also lower today. One reason that may be isn't because of the factory orders report, but rather the announcement that the company closed the deal to buy Lufkin Industries for $3.3 billion. The acquisition gives GE more diverse offerings in the oil and gas industry, but as the natural gas boom continues to rage on here in the U.S., the question must be asked, "What will happen when things begin to slow down?" As GE builds out its offerings for this industry, how long will it take the company to recoup this investment -- and will it be worth it in the long run? We have seen GE grow too big before; perhaps the company is once again making the same mistake.
Lastly, shares of Travelers (NYSE:TRV) are trading lower by 0.54% this morning after rising 0.83% yesterday. My Foolish colleague Dan Caplinger commented on yesterday's rise by saying that although the wild fires continue to burn out West, rising bond yields will help the company earn more from its investment portfolio. While I agree with Dan, I also feel that investors, rightfully so, just aren't sure what to do with Travelers at this time. Yes, the company will likely make more money in the future months, but with the recent wildfires and what is being predicted as a very bad hurricane season, the company may also be paying out more in claims than it traditionally does. Year-to-date, Travelers is up 12.31%, while the Dow has risen 14.7%, so the company hasn't been a great investment in 2013. I would predict that it will remain an underperformer and rather volatile for the remainder of the year because of the uncertainty with interest rates and the predicted poor weather forecasts.