The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) was trading 12 points lower, or 0.07%, by midafternoon despite The Conference Board reporting that its index of leading economic indicators rose 0.5% in May, the fourth-consecutive spike in the reading and up from a 0.3% boost in April.

"Data is pretty good but it's one of those things we have been stuck in for a while, the data is going to continue to muddle along," said Keith Bliss, senior vice president at Cuttone, told Reuters. "Economic data is not going to be the catalyst or driver to keep this market rallying to stratospheric heights because we know it's going to be mediocre."

Long-term investors would be wise to keep identifying key businesses with strong advantages to invest in rather than focusing on short-term, data-driven volatility. With that in mind, here are some companies making news with core business implications.

Sales of heavy machinery have slumped. Source: Caterpillar.

Inside the Dow, Caterpillar (NYSE:CAT) again announced that dealers' global sales spiraled lower, sliding 12% in the three months through May. The culprit has been Caterpillar's heavy-machinery sales in the Asia-Pacific region, which plunged 30% in the three-month period.

Investors had hoped that Caterpillar's improving construction machinery sales would help boost company results in the second quarter, but Caterpillar's latest sales update does not point in that direction. Construction machinery sales in the Asia-Pacific declined 8% in the three months through May, which indicates a recent slump when compared to the 2% increase the segment recorded in the three months through April.

"We believe global numbers will need to show some improvement shortly in order to support the positive move in Caterpillar's stock year to date," Stephen Volkmann, a New York-based analyst at Jefferies Group, said in a Bloomberg report.

Also inside the Dow, General Electric (NYSE:GE) today improved its bid for the energy assets of France's Alstom in an effort to fend off a recent counteroffer led by German rival Siemens.

General Electric's original nearly $17 billion bid would now include the company selling its rail-signaling operations to Alstom. In addition, Alstom would keep a stake in the joint ventures being created in its power grids and renewables business.

While Alstom's board of directors favored taking General Electric's original deal, the French government intervened and has used leverage to gain many concessions and job creation promises from General Electric.

While Alstom's energy assets would make a nice fit with General Electric's portfolio of businesses, if France isn't satisfied with the refined bid it could be time for General Electric to walk away. General Electric has said repeatedly it wouldn't get involved in a bidding war for Alstom, and this may be GE's last attempt to close the deal. Alstom will consider both offers before the looming June 23 deadline.