September has started off better for the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI), which is poised to close above 15,000 for the first time since Aug. 23. Today, positive economic news from China indicates that the economy is stabilizing. China reported a 7.2% uptick in exports for August, beating estimates and sending Chinese stocks surging. That had a ripple effect on the Dow's biggest gainer today. Here are some of the market's biggest movers today.
Caterpillar (NYSE:CAT) was a huge beneficiary of the positive economic news out of China, and it's the Dow's biggest winner today, up 3% as of 2:45 p.m. EDT. As China moves from investment-led growth to a consumption economy, the rebalancing act caused a decline in investment-oriented commodities, and the ripple effect followed through to mining equipment -- which accounts for much of Caterpillar's profit. In response, Caterpillar's stock was beaten down from $116 in early 2012 to about $86 today. If the global economy can continue to pick up steam, it will allow Caterpillar to use its economies of scale as the largest equipment-manufacturer in the industry to improve profitability.
Outside the Dow, Ford (NYSE:F) and General Motors (NYSE:GM) are trading up 2% and 1.3%, respectively. The positive economic data out of China is also good news for America's two largest automakers. As the automotive industry reaches saturation in the U.S. and Europe, China is the focal point of future growth. Last year automakers sold 19.3 million vehicles in China -- almost 5 million more than here in the U.S. -- and some analysts predict that number will reach 30 million by the end of the decade. As China continues to transition to a consumption economy and its middle class grows, Ford and GM stand to profit significantly. This is especially true as Japanese rivals Toyota and Honda have seen shares decline significantly over the last year due to a territorial dispute with China.
Shares of Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) are up 1.3% today following employee rallies for better pay late last week. On the Wall Street side of the company, Goldman Sachs thinks Wal-Mart has some upside over the next year and could rise to $83. This comes as a surprise to some investors after Wal-Mart reported softened consumer spending last quarter.
"We believe Wal-Mart is priced fairly relative to its modest growth, but that accelerating growth in 2014 should play to a favorable rerating," Goldman analyst Matthew J. Fassler wrote in a Monday research report, according to Barrons. "Meanwhile the stock is priced inexpensively relative to financial returns, especially when we frame the firm against a group of large-cap global consumer enterprises, and somewhat cheap to recent history, as well."
Fool contributor Daniel Miller owns shares of Ford and General Motors. The Motley Fool recommends Ford and General Motors. The Motley Fool owns shares of Ford. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.