The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) was trading 12 points lower, or 0.08%, by midafternoon after new Labor Department data showed U.S. job openings in April climbed 289,000 to 4.46 million -- the highest point in almost seven years. Job openings increased at retailers, manufacturers, and professional and business service providers while falling at construction companies, according to Bloomberg.
"Job openings are a measure of the demand for labor, so in general, you like to see a rising trend," Bloomberg quoted Ryan Wang, an economist at HSBC Securities USA, as saying. "There's been improvement in the labor turnover figures and business surveys also suggest that conditions are gradually improving."
With that in mind, here are some companies making headlines in the markets today.
Inside the Dow, Caterpillar (NYSE:CAT), the world's largest manufacturer of heavy equipment, continues to cut costs and shed jobs while waiting for its lagging mining equipment business environment to improve. Caterpillar recently announced plans to shut three component production facilities in Illinois, which will cut about 170 jobs.
"In the end, the financial analysis just showed the team that the location in Menominee is a better location for efficiency reasons," company spokeswoman Rachel Potts told the Peoria Journal Star.
Slashing jobs has been a consistent practice for Caterpillar and likely will continue through the next couple years. Though the mining end market continues to be weak amid lower commodity pricing and a slowing Chinese economy, Caterpillar still commands a large amount of the market. Morningstar estimates that Caterpillar and rival Komatsu combine for 50% of the global market share. Even with global demand for Caterpillar's heavy equipment weakened, investors can expect the company to become leaner and hold on to its market share while waiting for the business environment to rebound.
In other manufacturing news, General Motors (NYSE:GM) addressed shareholders today at the automaker's 2014 annual meeting. While acknowledging the challenges GM faces in yeh face of ever-growing recall figures and lawsuits, CEO Mary Barra also noted that 2013 was a strong year and that the company is well positioned to take on the automotive industry with a stronger vehicle lineup.
Highlights from last year include the U.S. Treasury Department selling off its remaining ownership in General Motors and Moody's Investors Service upgrading the automaker's credit rating to investment grade. Standard & Poor's also returned General Motors to the S&P 500 index. In terms of new products, GM released fresh versions of its most profitable and important vehicles, the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra, which the company believes will boost average transaction prices, revenue, and ultimately, profit.
General Motors also recently released new sales results from the world's largest automotive market, China. GM and its joint ventures sold a May record 276,109 vehicles in China, which was a 9.2% increase from the year-ago period. While GM is an intriguing investment option amid operational and margin improvements,investors would be wise to stay clear until all the dust settles following its massive recall debacle.