Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over market movements, we do like to keep an eye on big changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.
The week is off to a hot start on Wall Street, and stocks are up almost across the board. Twenty-eight of 30 Dow Jones Industrial Average (^DJI 0.17%) components are higher today, pushing the index higher by 149 points, or 1%, as of 3:20 p.m. EDT. The broader S&P 500 (^GSPC -0.06%) is up 0.96%. It doesn't hurt that both the U.S. Congress and world leaders are tepid on possible intervention in Syria, but the bigger driver today is China. The country's exports rose 7.2% in August after dropping 3.1% in June and then rising 5.1% in July. China is one of the only countries posting significant growth right now, and increased exports are a sign that manufacturers are finding willing buyers in this slow economy. However, China's economic figures can be questionable, so don't read into one metric too much, and certainly don't use it as the only reason to buy today.
Stronger exports could mean higher demand for Caterpillar's (CAT 0.19%) industrial equipment, which is why the stock is 3% higher today. Management was very positive about growth in China on last quarter's conference call, so we should see long-term growth for the company. But in the short term there will still be some disappointment, including a predicted 50% drop in construction equipment purchases this year versus 2011. If you're getting into Caterpillar here, it's important to keep an eye on the long-term earnings story and not just day-to-day movements like today's.
One of only two stocks moving lower today is Verizon (VZ -0.84%), which hasn't gained much momentum since announcing the acquisition of the 45% of Verizon Wireless that it didn't already own. Today, the bigger news was that Verizon will be in court arguing against the FCC's "net neutrality" rules. The company wants to be able to prioritize or charge extra for some Internet traffic, which net neutrality rules have fought against. This is an important battle to watch, and right now Verizon is going it alone against the FCC, while AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile all support the FCC's current policy.