At the outset of earnings season, investors were doubtful of the growth prospects for many of the biggest companies in the U.S. So far, though, the stock market has soared throughout this earnings season as many of those companies managed to outpace lowered expectations and make share price gains as a result. With so many members of the Dow Jones Industrials (DJINDICES:^DJI) reporting their quarterly results this week, it's only natural for the market to put considerations about broader macroeconomic issues on the back burner and focus on individual company results. Given some good news this morning, the Dow is up a nominal 12 points as of 10:50 a.m. EDT, pushing forward to what could be a new all-time high if the index holds onto its current gains.

Driving the Dow higher are two industrial giants, United Technologies (NYSE:RTX) and DuPont (NYSE:DD). For United Tech, a combination of continued strength in the aerospace industry and solid gains by its elevator segment sent the stock up 2.9%. The conglomerate also raised the lower end of its previous full-year earnings guidance, pointing to the success of its Goodrich acquisition in boosting sales of parts for large commercial engines. One analyst estimated that 65% of aircraft components now come from United Tech businesses, leaving its future firmly connected with currently rosy projections about aerospace demand over the next couple of decades.

DuPont, meanwhile, has gained 0.7% following its own quarterly report. Results from the quarter were mixed, with earnings falling from year-ago levels but narrowly beating estimates while revenue missed analysts' consensus figures. But the company said it's considering a sale of its "performance chemicals" segment, citing the exploration of "strategic alternatives" -- which might be a result of the recent investment from activist hedge-fund investor Nelson Peltz. The unit, which makes titanium dioxide pigment for paint and the popular Teflon coating, carries lower margins than DuPont's agricultural and energy-based businesses. Lately, potential M&A activity has spurred share price gains, and investors clearly expect DuPont's moves to unlock further value.

Finally, outside the Dow, earnings has helped drive smaller stocks higher as well. Coal stocks are climbing as Peabody Energy (OTC:BTU) jumps 5.4% after reporting that its profit didn't drop quite so much as expected, with cost-cutting measures offsetting some of the negative impact of falling revenue. Peabody's results helped send the Market Vectors Coal ETF up more than 2%, but the industry has a long way to go before it can climb out from under the longer-term losses it has racked up in recent years.

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