The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) is down 0.13% in late trading, despite positive jobs data. Initial unemployment claims fell 15,000 last week to 330,000, while Challenger, Gray & Christmas said planned layoffs fell 32% during December -- the lowest level in 13 years. Although I, and the Motley Fool, always recommend taking short-term information with a grain of salt, tomorrow's Labor Department payroll rate report will be of keen interest to investors. With that in mind, here are some companies making headlines today.
Inside the Dow, Boeing (NYSE:BA) is doing its part to move the index higher as the company's stock trades 1% higher. There are two key takeaways from machinists' union members vote last week to approve Boeing's new contract extension, which secured production of the 777X aircraft at its Everett, Wash., plant.
First, pension-style retirement plans took a huge knock and seem to be dying a slow death among corporations in favor of less risky defined-contribution, 401(k)-style plans. It will be interesting to see over the next decade if other massive business sectors, such as the automotive industry, begin to take the same approach. We also saw, much to the pleasure of Boeing customers and investors, that the rollout of the 777X aircraft that rang up roughly $100 billion in orders at November's Dubai Airshow should be much smoother than the 787 Dreamliner. The latter produced headaches alike for everyone involved -- customers, travelers, Boeing, and investors. Fortunately for all of those parties, the 777X will likely be produced closer to budget and delivery times, as the Washington state workforce experienced with the 777 family will be working on the next generation aircraft.
Outside of the Dow, Ford (NYSE:F) is trading more than 2% higher today after it increased its dividend for the second time since it was reinstated in 2012. Ford will pay a quarterly dividend $0.125 per share, a 25% increase from the previous rate of a dime per share.
The Blue Oval decided the company's strong balance sheet, increased liquidity, and better business performance enabled a sustainable increase in the dividend level. More specifically, over the last three quarters Ford increased its liquidity position by $3 billion; and over the last eight quarters the company has increased its liquidity position by more than $5 billion. Ford says it has also posted 14 consecutive quarters of positive automotive operating-related cash flow.
Also in the automotive industry, the Volvo honored Johnson Controls (NYSE:JCI) with three awards for outstanding product quality and sustainable manufacturing operations. Johnson Controls AGM batteries support the start-stop functionality in Volvo cars, which reduces fuel consumption by as much as 8%, according to the company.
"For more than 20 years we have been working in close cooperation with Volvo Cars," said Holger Jetses, general manager for power solutions Europe for Johnson Controls, in a press release. "These three awards are a great honor for us and reaffirm our commitment to high standards of quality, reliability, and performance. It also motivates us to continue our sustainability efforts -- both with our products and our production sites."