Investors were all smiles today after the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) pushed forward to a record high close. At the closing bell, the Dow finished up 98 points, or around 0.6%, eclipsing the 16,800 point mark while at it. The European Central Bank spurred the big gains of today, with no Dow stock as fortunate as Caterpillar (NYSE:CAT): The industrial giant's shares charged higher by 2.5% to lead the index. Let's catch up on all the day's action.
Will Draghi push for QE-Europe?
Wall Street woke up to sighs of relief from Europe. The ECB green-lighted the unprecedented move of negative deposit rates, slashing the rate to -0.1%, and adding new pressure on banks to lend by effectively charging them to sit on piles of money. While Scandinavian nations have tried negative rates in the past to boost lending, this is the first time a bloc as large as the eurozone pushed forward on the measure. However, analysts have cautioned that such a low negative rate might not be enough to kick-start lending in a way that can reverse dwindling inflation in Europe. Don't count out possible quantitative easing moves from ECB President Mario Draghi in the near future if the eurozone can't turn around sluggish prices and stagnating incomes.
While European stocks across the board didn't respond drastically to the move, the National Bank of Greece's (UNKNOWN:NBG.DL) volatile shares shot higher by 6.6% today. The NBG's riding a wave of upgrades, as Nomura analysts upgraded the stock to buy on Tuesday, while Deutsche Bank similarly upped its recommendation of the National Bank of Greece from hold to buy today.
While today's ECB push might seem like a good thing for Greece's beleaguered economy -- and, in the long run, it very well might be -- investors shouldn't expect a dramatic turnaround from this up-and-down stock in the near term. Greece is still struggling under unemployment higher than 25%, and while Greece's credit rating received an upgrade from ratings agency Fitch last month, the economy's still stuck in a recession, with a 1.1% decline in GDP in the most recent quarter. Until Greece stabilizes, expect more up-and-down swings from the National Bank.
Dow stocks had plenty to be excited about today with the market's run-up, however, and daily leader Caterpillar made the most of things. After a sluggish year last year, Caterpillar's stock has made a sharp turnaround in 2014: since the year kicked off, shares have jumped more than 16%. Caterpillar still has plenty of work to do to reverse its sales slump, and this company could use a lift in Europe to counteract harder-hit revenues in locales such as Latin America and Asia. The firm's sales from its Europe, Africa, and Middle East segment declined by only 1% year over year in its most-recent quarter, but construction sales have gotten off to a tear, jumping by 20% in that time frame.
While mining remains depressed for Caterpillar -- and the industrial sector as a whole -- the firm's gains in construction and energy, both larger in revenues overall than mining, are promising for shareholders' future. Caterpillar's long-term outlook seems fine considering its place as the largest player in a cyclical sector. When Europe bounces back, and mining bottoms out, this company's in the pole position for success. However, investors should take care: Given the fragility of the global recovery, such a bounce back for Caterpillar's financials might be some time away. Patient investors with their eyes on the long term are the ones who will make the most of this stock.