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Forget Russia! Dow Rallies 181 Points on Strong U.S. Data

By John Divine – Mar 17, 2014 at 6:07PM

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Hertz's spinoff boosts shares while Lions Gate struggles and Disney keeps running.

Wall Street finally shifted its focus from Russian President Vladimir Putin's twisted game of geopolitical chess on Monday, as surprising growth in the U.S. manufacturing sector became hard to ignore. The Federal Reserve's February industrial production numbers show rapid growth in the auto industry especially, as production rose nearly 5% from January. After falling for five straight days last week as Putin's antics regarding Ukraine sparked global outrage, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (^DJI 0.20%) jumped 181 points, or 1.1%, to end at 16,247. Walt Disney (DIS -0.31%) stock helped to lead the charge, tacking on 1.7%.

Shares of Lions Gate Entertainment (LGF-A -0.70%), although in the same industry as Disney, shed 5.1% today. But Lions Gate, let's be honest -- America knows Walt Disney. America grew up with Walt Disney. Walt Disney was a friend of ours. And Lions Gate, you're no Walt Disney. I'm not writing off Lions Gate, which is primarily known as the production company behind the money-printing Hunger Games franchise as well as the famed Mad Men and Orange is the New Black TV series. The company's finances are even solid enough to affirm its next quarterly dividend payment of $0.05 per share. Things are going well.

But Disney is an absolute wrecking ball, a brute force of nature in capitalism on planet earth. Its $142 billion market cap makes it 34 times larger than Lions Gate, which means that Mickey Mouse himself could probably acquire the smaller Disney rival without a loan or a credit check. That said, it's easy to get complacent when you're on top of the world like Disney is, and with a mediocre presence in the box office right now -- highlighted by Need for Speed and Peabody and Sherman -- Star Wars: Episode VII, expected in time for Christmas next year, can't come soon enough.

Lastly, shares of Hertz Global Holdings (HTZG.Q), primarily known to consumers for its rental car service, surged 4.8% today as investors cheered a reported spinoff. The Financial Times reported after markets closed on Friday that Hertz is planning to unwind its rental equipment business at a valuation approximating $4.5 billion. Spinoffs are commonly considered to unlock value for both the spinee and the spinner, as investors can more easily discern growth patterns in each business and management can maintain a narrower focus on pursuing core competencies. We'll get a better idea of how Hertz's equipment rental business is progressing tomorrow morning, when Hertz reports earnings.

John Divine owns shares of Apple and Google. You can follow him on Twitter, @divinebizkid, and on Motley Fool CAPS, @TMFDivine.

The Motley Fool recommends Apple, Google, Netflix, and Walt Disney and owns shares of Apple, Google, Hertz Global Holdings, Netflix, and Walt Disney. We Fools don't 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.

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