Stocks rallied higher on Tuesday, as a strong earnings season put eight of 10 sectors in the black by day's end. 20 of the 30 Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) components finished on a positive note, as the blue chip index flirted with all-time highs. The Dow tacked on 86 points, or 0.5%, to finish at 16,535, less than 100 points shy of its record close.
Walt Disney (NYSE:DIS), while not the top performer in the index today, came out with arguably the biggest news, announcing the cast for the much-anticipated Star Wars: Episode VII. Disney acquired Lucasfilm back in 2012 for just over $4 billion; now it's rejuvenating the iconic sci-fi saga with another trilogy. It looks like Disney will be shelling out the big bucks in the first installment -- due for a holiday 2015 release -- as Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, and famed composer John Williams all return. Of course the original crew will also be passing the torch to a new generation of characters in the film, none of whom are incredibly well known like their counterparts, bringing a sense of freshness to the saga. Disney shares added 1.1% as Wall Street applauded the casting moves.
Disney's decision to sprinkle some young, unproven talent with the tried-and-true screen veterans is a bit of a gamble, which may be precisely why Wall Street applauded the choice. Wall Street's certainly been a fan of gambling stocks in the last year -- particularly those with exposure to the new gaming capital of the world, Macau. Las Vegas Sands (NYSE:LVS), for instance, a stock that's soared more than 40% in the last year, is deceptively named, owning a handful of lucrative properties in Macau. Tacking on 5.7% today, Las Vegas Sands piggybacked on the triumphant earnings beat of rival casino operator MGM, which lifted most gaming stocks on Tuesday after more than doubling consensus earnings estimates last quarter.
United Continental Holdings (NASDAQ:UAL) also finished as one of the day's big movers, as shares of the airline soared 6% in trading. Although the stock got hammered last week, dropping nearly 10% in a single day after reporting a wider-than-expected quarterly loss, investors clearly thought United shares were oversold on Tuesday. The company's CEO, Jeffery Smisek, appears to think the same, buying 20,000 shares of on Monday in a vote of confidence. While insider buys are generally far better indications of where a stock's headed than insider sells, remember to take insider activity with a grain of sand. Smisek's purchase yesterday, for instance, only increased his holdings in United by 4.3%.