Despite bad news from across the Pacific, the market has managed to haul in great gains today as the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) has exploded for a 112-point gain as of 2:30 p.m. EDT. All but four blue-chip stocks were in the green. Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) hasn't been able to do much today behind the earnings report issued after yesterday's closing bell, but bad news for Dow laggard UnitedHealth Group (NYSE:UNH) has sunk the health insurance giant's stock in a big way today. Let's catch up on what you need to know.
China growth fears intensify
Concerns over China's slowing economic growth have picked up following the country's latest economic update. The world's second-largest economy reported today that its GDP for the first quarter of the year grew by an annualized rate of just 7.4%, ahead of the 7.3% economists had on average projected but down from 7.7% quarter over quarter. That's also behind the 7.5% target Beijing had set for annual growth, and also marked the slowest quarterly growth in a year and a half. Unsurprisingly, China's industrial growth of 8.8% missed the economist target of 9% for the quarter; with exports falling, it could take more vigorous stimulus measures to right this ship.
Meanwhile, Intel's stock has hung flat so far after the company reported that net profit tumbled 5% for the first quarter, with the chipmaker's revenue falling 1%. Still, that earnings fall beat expectations, as analysts have kept a pessimistic view of Intel amid the PC market's serious decline. Fortunately, the company's received a boost from its promising data center business, which has become one of Intel's best growth prospects and saw revenue jump 11% over last year's quarterly mark.
That won't be enough to sustain Intel's push for growth, as the company needs to make its mark in the mobile market, but data center success will help propel Intel past the PC market's weakness. Intel's leadership said the company is on track to meet its 2014 goal of shipping 40 million chips for tablets. While Intel has struggled to find a dominant place in the smartphone market, being competitive with tablets is a good start. Nonetheless, if Intel can't move more forecefully into growing areas such as mobile and the Internet of Things, don't expect this stock to keep up the 22% run seen over the past year.
Shares of fellow Dow component UnitedHealth have tumbled by 1.8% to the bottom of the index after Citi downgraded the stock from buy to neutral. Analyst Carl McDonald noted that higher costs could mount in the company's upcoming earnings report from Medicare and Medicaid, impacting the iinsurer's profit. UnitedHealth is a big player in the government-funded health care services, and despite cuts to Medicare Advantage from Obamacare, it's pivotal that the company keep up member growth to outweigh any pressure on earnings. UnitedHealth will report on its quarter tomorrow, and investors should keep on eye on whether the harsh winter took its toll on medical costs, which have been rising faster than the company's revenue as of late.