At lunchtime on Friday, the Dow Jones Industrials (DJINDICES:^DJI)had sustained the morning's gains to stand at 65 points in the green. Most investors were excited about the continued strength in the U.S. economy, with the latest numbers on jobs pointing to a sustained recovery in the employment outlook that many hope will spur further growth. Yet not all of the Dow's component companies are relying solely on the U.S. for higher profits. In particular, financial stocks Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) and American Express (NYSE:AXP) were among the best performers in the Dow today, and both are looking abroad for some of their most promising opportunities.
Goldman Sachs helped lead the Dow higher with a gain of almost 2%. Most U.S. investors have focused on Goldman's prospects domestically, with some of its trading operations suffering from low market volatility and a particularly unpredictable fixed-income market. But yesterday, reports surfaced that Goldman Sachs is making internal moves to strengthen its team of mergers and acquisitions specialists in the Asia-Pacific region. Goldman Sachs created a new position to head up investment banking for Asia, leaving out the developed, slower-growth Japanese economy. Although companies in the U.S. and Europe have gotten the most attention as targets of M&A activity, deal volume in Asia outside Japan jumped more than 75% in the first quarter of 2014 to a new record. As Goldman Sachs gets more of its overall revenue from M&A-related consulting and advisory fees, it'll be important for the Dow-component investment bank to establish itself as a global player. Its move here clearly demonstrates a competitive push to build its reputation accordingly.
American Express rose 1.8% even as the credit card giant deals with the fallout from a data breach. Reports show that about 76,000 cardholders in California might have had their names, account numbers, or other information taken. American Express had known about the breach for more than two months and had already taken action to monitor the affected cards for fraud, and today's lack of response from AmEx shares shows that investors aren't worried even though credit card fraud still has a substantial impact on the economy. Instead, American Express shareholders hope that efforts from the European Central Bank to bolster the economy across the Atlantic will lead to higher spending, especially among its more affluent customer base. Given its international reputation, American Express could benefit from a stronger Europe and from global economic growth generally.
The U.S. is an important market for the Dow Jones Industrials, but many blue-chip index components rely on global conditions as well. By watching Goldman Sachs, American Express, and other multinational players, you can get a better sense of how much the Dow reflects strength in the global economy rather than just domestic growth.