Thursday morning, the Dow Jones Industrials (DJINDICES:^DJI) continued what has been an impressive performance this week, rising 75 points as of 11 a.m. EST and standing within 1% of a new record high. Even though many investors are looking forward to the Labor Department's February employment figures for signs of economic growth or weakness, the jobs report due on Friday might well be a no-lose situation. Weak numbers would likely be attributed to poor weather, while unexpected strength could show that the economy is on more solid footing than recent fears have suggested. Helping to lead the way higher for the Dow this morning was Caterpillar (NYSE:CAT), while Home Depot (NYSE:HD) fell 0.5% as news of a key executive's insider sale showed the impact of recent succession planning from the home-improvement retailer.
Caterpillar's 1.6% stock gain came on the heels of an earnings report from rival Joy Global (NYSE:JOY), whose shares jumped almost 3.5%. As expected, Joy Global's mining focus brought it a much smaller profit this year compared to the year-ago quarter, with net income plunging by two-thirds on a 27% decline in sales. Much of Joy Global's revenue comes from coal mining, but the stubbornly low-price environment in the industry has hurt demand for capital equipment such as Joy Global's heavy machinery. Yet investors appear to be mollified by the company's guidance for 2014, suggesting that conditions could potentially have hit bottom. For Caterpillar, the mining industry has become an important part of its business, and falling prices for commodities have posed a problem for some time.
Meanwhile, Home Depot is dealing with fallout from its announcement last week that it would name Craig Menear as its president of its U.S. retail division. With speculation that Menear could become the successor to current CEO Frank Blake, the appointment was bad news for Chief Financial Officer Carol Tome, who some had believed would succeed Blake to head up the home-improvement retailer. The Wall Street Journal reported this morning that Tome had sold off a substantial portion of her Home Depot stock following the announcement. While that likely didn't move the stock by itself, any concerns about the company's future leadership could hurt Home Depot going forward if it suggests that its long streak of success could come end.