The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) briefly set a new intraday high in morning trading today, topping 16,600 points for the first time before quickly retreating back to 16,555 as of 12:30 p.m. EDT.

Yesterday, the Dow rose 40 points and narrowly missed what could have been an all-time closing high. The recent movements higher have occurred in the context of a string of better than expected economic data releases.

Compared to the February numbers, the Institute for Supply Management's manufacturing PMI, the ADP National Employment Report, the National Federation of Independent Business jobs report, vehicle sales, and new jobless claims have all impressed. 

However, this morning the U.S. Department of Commerce reported that the U.S. trade deficit widened more than expected in February, leading many economists to predict a drag on first-quarter GDP. 

The change was driven by lower than expected exports from a broad base of sectors, but of particular note is the $2.7 billion decline in industrial materials and supplies. Economists attributed this nosedive in exports to weakness in the economies of major U.S. trading partners. Exports of capital goods declined $894 million, further supporting this thesis.

For long-term investors, the impact of this report will likely be most evident when manufacturing conglomerates such as General Electric (NYSE:GE) report first-quarter results. These companies, and their subsidiaries, manufacture and sell industrial and capital goods to businesses all over the world. If the global economy is showing weakness in the industrial sector, it is these companies that will feel the pain.

International consumer-facing companies such as Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) will likely be relatively shielded, as the report noted that exports in consumer goods actually rose by $1.2 billion.

Both General Electric and Johnson & Johnson were not going far in early afternoon trading, with GE up 0.2% and Johnson & Johnson down 0.6%.

largely unchanged in the morning session, trading within 0.3% of yesterday's closing price.