U.S. stock markets are up slightly late in trading after the Federal Reserve of Philadelphia released a manufacturing index that indicated relatively strong expansion. The reading of nine was up from -6.3 in February and well above the 3.5 that economists expected. Any reading above zero indicates expansion.  

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) has responded with a 0.5% gain today, looking past continuing sanctions on Russia that could elevate conflict in the region.

JPMorgan leads the Dow
Giant bank JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE:JPM) is one of the biggest winners on the Dow today, climbing 3%. The company announced the $3.5 billion sale of its physical commodities unit, which is being purchased by Swiss company Mercuria.

JPMorgan Chase's bank in Time Square. Image owned by The Motley Fool.

This comes just after JPMorgan was named the top Wall Street bank in energy and metals trading, according to U.K. analytics firm Coalition. It topped Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS), which was No. 1 last year and may regain the spot now that JPMorgan is exiting physical commodities.  

The deal doesn't get JPMorgan out of commodities; it actually cuts the bank's commodities business by just one-third, according to Forbes. But it could reduce concerns among regulators that JPMorgan's massive deposit base is being used to manipulate the commodities market.

Last year, the Senate debated whether or not JPMorgan and Goldman Sachs held too much clout in commodities because of their asset bases, and considering the scrutiny JPMorgan has been under and the small size of its physical commodities business, it may not have been worth the headache.

The other thing to watch today is the Fed's release of stress tests on banks, coming at 4 p.m. EDT. These are closely watched by investors, and if JPMorgan and Goldman Sachs pass, they could increase their dividends or buybacks. Failure could mean a reduction in both.

I wouldn't expect any failures from these two massive banks, but keep an eye on their plans to return capital over the next few weeks, because that could get these stocks moving higher again.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.