Manufacturing data and assurances that the Federal Reserve will continue its financial stimulus have investors bidding up stocks today. The Institute for Supply Management's U.S. manufacturing index rose to 55.4% in July from 50.9% in June, indicating much stronger sentiment in the manufacturing community. Investors also had the night to digest yesterday's comments from the Fed, which indicate a continuation of easy money in the short term but a likely slowing in its bond-buying program by the end of the year. As of 3:20 p.m. EDT the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) has gained 0.72%, while the S&P 500 (SNPINDEX:^GSPC) is up 1.11% and may close above 1,700 for the first time ever.
Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG) has marched 1.4% higher following an earnings report that wasn't so bad as expected. The company recently restored former CEO A. G. Lafley to his old office, and his first report as chief exec showed a 2% rise in revenue and a 48% decline in profit to $0.64 per share. But investors are focusing on a fiscal 2014 projection of earnings growth in the 5% to 7% range, which is better than expected. P&G just needs to get back to the slow and steady growth that made it a Dow component in the first place, and Lafley looks like he's on his way to doing just that.
ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM) is the Dow's laggard, falling 1.6% after reporting earnings. The company earned $6.86 billion in the second quarter, or $1.55 per share, which fell well short of Wall Street's $1.90 expectation. What's interesting is that revenue of $106.5 billion was better than expected, showing that even oil giants are seeing falling margins in the energy industry.
It's simply becoming more difficult and more expensive to find oil, and that will squeeze margins across the industry. To make matters worse, long-term demand growth is slowing and may go negative in the next few years. ExxonMobil is still a giant in energy, but it's not the darling it used to be, and we shouldn't expect massive profit growth going forward.