With the first half of 2014 in the books, the third quarter is officially under way -- and it's getting off to a nice start. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) never once let itself stray into the red on Tuesday, trading substantially higher and flirting with the as-yet-unreached 17,000-level. There were good reasons for the bullishness: sales at U.S. automakers easily exceeded expectations in June, and a strong reading from the ISM manufacturing index last month also had investors giddy with optimism. The Dow finished with a 129-point, or 0.8%, gain, closing at a record high of 16,956.
Walt Disney (NYSE:DIS) shares ended toward the top of the Dow today, adding 0.9% ahead of the United States-Belgium World Cup elimination match, a match will draw millions of eyeballs to the Disney-owned ESPN as an overachieving American squad tries to earn a spot in the quarterfinals. I can't help but keep one eye on the game myself as I write this article. But if the $150 billion Disney were a World Cup contender, I doubt it'd resemble the underdog U.S. soccer team, which beat all odds to escape from the "Group of Death" last week.
The recent revelation that Star Wars: Episode VII star Harrison Ford suffered from a broken leg in early filming does put pressure on the Disney film's production schedule, but even rebelling against the cosmically evil Empire doesn't hold a candle to the long odds the U.S. soccer team faced in making it out of a group that included Ghana, Portugal, and Germany.
While Disney intelligently milks its broadcasting properties for all they're worth (aside from ESPN, Disney owns or jointly owns ABC, A&E, and its eponymous Disney channel), the media giant also recognizes the irreversible "cord-cutting" trend, hastened by the likes of Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) and Hulu. Instead of stubbornly ignoring the shift toward streaming video, Disney's embraced it: it actually owns about a third of Hulu and has partnered with Netflix several times to offer exclusive content, which includes the final season of its animated series, Star Wars: The Clone Wars. It's on the strength of partnerships like this, as well as Netflix's own award-winning original content, that make Netflix the premier online video-streaming service today. The fact that a Goldman Sachs analyst formally recognized that by upgrading the stock on Tuesday helped shares advance 7.4% today.
Elsewhere, shares of the durable outdoor camera maker GoPro (NASDAQ:GPRO), which sells cameras famous for capturing high-quality first-person video of users typically doing something crazy under intense conditions, rocketed 20% higher on Tuesday. The stock has more than doubled in price since going public at $24 a share -- less than a week ago. It's easy to get caught up in GoPro's hype, especially when its blistering growth -- the company recorded more sales in the first quarter of 2014 than it did in the entire year of 2011 -- gets investors salivating. But high-flying IPOs, as a rule of thumb, are rarely astute long-term investments. Think about it: Wall Street underwriters do everything they can to get their newly public clients the highest market valuation they can. Unless the public has access to a different set of financials implying twice the valuation professional underwriters calculated less than a week ago, we can reasonably expect GoPro's stock has been the subject of some irrationally exuberant buying.
While GoPro's incredible run has been exciting to watch, the stock is probably less likely to induce a heart attack than a World Cup U.S. soccer game.