Early-Morning Checkup: The Dow Is on Fire!

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Investors who were hoping for a strong first showing after a scary 2011 can breathe easier this morning. The Dow Jones Industrials Average (INDEX: ^DJI) doesn't seem to be suffering from a New Year's hangover today, as the index rocketed up over 2% in early-morning trading. The other major indexes were also up big for the morning.

The big positives today have Asian roots, as solid economic news has overshadowed concerns about the European debt crisis. Surveys indicating that India's and China's growth may be picking up speed have investors giddy. The news sent 29 of the 30 Dow components higher in the morning, with an amazing five companies clocking gains larger than 4%. The biggest early-morning winners are listed below:

Company

Return

Alcoa4.1%
Bank of America5.5%
Caterpillar (NYS: CAT) 4.8%
Cisco Systems (NAS: CSCO) 4.5%
JPMorgan Chase4.5%

Cisco shares got a shot of adrenaline this morning as JPMorgan analyst Rod Hall raised his rating on the company to overweight from neutral. Mr. Hall believes that 2011 was a "perfect storm of multiple small issues" and that the gross margin retraction of 2011 is unlikely to repeat in 2012.

Caterpillar seems to have shaken off their worker injury fine as investors are focusing instead on their impressive 10% forecasted 2012 growth in China's construction equipment market. Group President Richard Lavin also stated he believes the Chinese yuan will continue to strengthen against the dollar and other currencies.

The larger positive news out of China seems supported by the recently reported 42% gambling revenue growth from Macau for 2011, the only region in China where gambling is legal. Macau heavyweights Las Vegas Sands (NYS: LVS) and Melco Crown Entertainment (NAS: MPEL) are both understandably trading higher on the news. Melco Crown's valuable location in the center of Cotai and Las Vegas' planned opening of the Sands Cotai Central place them as top dogs in the region. Macau continues to defy traditional growth figures and may indicate a stronger Chinese consumer than recent reports have indicated.

Of course it's easy to get excited and jump in with both feet when the market is up this much, but remember that truly successful investors need a broader, less myopic view. For a stock that The Motley Fool's chief investment officer believes has a long, prosperous future ahead of it, check out our brand-new free report: "The Motley Fool's Top Stock for 2012." I invite you to take a copy, free for a limited time. Get access to the report and find out the name of this legendary company.

At the time this article was published Austin Smith owns no shares of any companies mentioned above. The Motley Fool owns shares of Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, and Cisco Systems. The Fool owns shares of and has created a bull call spread position on Cisco Systems.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended buying shares of Cisco Systems. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy.

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