Boeing Takes Off to Keep the Dow Closing in on Record Highs

Ford hits a huge day after March sales impress, while U.S. manufacturing grows for the 10th straight month

Dan Carroll
Dan Carroll
Apr 1, 2014 at 2:30PM

A strong effort from transportation stocks and upbeat economic data has sent the market surging today, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) up 68 points at 2:30 p.m. EDT and approaching a new record high. The blue-chip index's member stocks are split roughly evenly between risers and laggards. Dow leader Boeing (NYSE:BA) has helped the index ward off the red with a strong showing, while a huge day from Ford (NYSE:F) outside of the Dow has investors cheering. Let's catch up on what you need to know.

Manufacturing receives a welcome boost
The Institute for Supply Management kicked things off this morning on a high note, as its Purchasing Managers Index for March reported a half-percentage point gain over February's PMI result. March's final reading of 53.7 -- far above the neutral 50 mark that indicates neither contraction nor expansion in U.S. manufacturing -- marks the 10th straight month of expansion in the sector. Manufacturing production gained more than 7 percentage points after contracting in February. With new orders, backlogs, and exports all growing at faster rates in March, American manufacturing is on good footing.

Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Source: Boeing Image Gallery.

Boeing capitalized on the PMI with a great jump of 2.1% today. It's likely investors still are enjoying news of a huge new order for the company late last week. Japan's All Nippon Airways placed a 70-aircraft order split between Boeing and lead rival Airbus (NASDAQOTH:EADSY), including 14 of the former's newer 787-9 Dreamliner craft. Airbus picked up a sizable chunk of the ANA orders, but Boeing captured the limelight in counting an order for 40 planes its 787 and 777 platforms, which will contribute to the company's burgeoning backlog in a big way.

Boeing's fight with Airbus remains as tight as ever, but Boeing's 2.3% dividend yield and stock drop of more than 8% over the past three months makes this long-term standout aerospace stock look as appealing as ever. With the commercial aerospace market booming and poised to grow behind rising markets such as China and India, Boeing's a great pick for any portfolio's foundation.

Ford's stock has bounced nearly 5% today after a strong showing from March sales. Auto sales around the U.S. hit its stride after winter weather began to ease in the month, and Ford took advantage to the tune of a 3% sales year-over-year gain. Ford outpaced rivals Toyota and Chrysler in total U.S. sales in March, and a record month for the Fusion midsized sedan paired with a big outing from the F-series of pickups, which recorded year-over-year sales growth of more than 5%, highlighted the company's gains. Analysts are high on the second quarter's potential after March's strong finish, so Ford, which has seen its stock drop by more than 9% over the past six months, could be in for a bounce in the coming months.