Will the Dow Move Higher Today?

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After a down day to start the week, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI) bounced back strong, gaining 163 points over the past two days. Blowout earnings from Apple sent the Nasdaq (INDEX: ^IXIC) up 2.3% yesterday, a 2012 record, and Boeing (NYS: BA) smashed earnings expectations to lead Dow components up. The airplane maker posted a profit of $1.11 per share, which was $0.17 ahead of estimates.

Today, all eyes turn toward ExxonMobil (NYS: XOM) , which reports before markets open.

The world's largest energy company rewarded shareholders yesterday, boosting its quarterly dividend by 21% to $0.57, but the market greeted the news with a yawn as shares went up only slightly for the day. Looking ahead to earnings, analysts are expecting EPS of $2.09, which is down 2% from last year's total. While higher oil prices should increase revenue, the energy company has been experiencing rising refining costs. Just last quarter, profits from downstream operations dropped by $725 million, and the energy giant announced in January that it will sell a stake in its Japanese refining business for $3.9 billion. Last month, the company said it will invest a staggering $185 billion over the next five years in new oil and gas projects. Unlike competitors such as Chesapeake Energy and ConocoPhillips that have cut gas production in the face of rock-bottom prices, Exxon has maintained its regular levels of gas production. The company believes natural gas will account for 60% of energy needs over the next 30 years.


Another developing story to follow centers on Wal-Mart (NYS: WMT) and the bribery scandal at its Mexico subsidiary. The backlash shaved 8% off the stock this week, and a shareholder filed a lawsuit against the company yesterday. Rumors are also abounding that CEO Michael Duke or other executives could be forced out.

Two economic reports of note come out today. At 8:30 a.m. ET, the labor department will release new unemployment claims for last week. The market is expecting the number to dip to 373,000 from the previous week's 386,000. Later in the morning, the March pending home sales report will come out. Predictions are for a 0.5% increase coming off an equal drop in February.

Finally, a number of other companies of interest report earnings today, including Altria, PepsiCo, Amazon.com, and Starbucks.

Make earnings season count
With earnings season in full force, I suggest taking a look at our latest special free report. It's a video detailing "5 Stocks Investors Need to Watch This Earnings Season," and it has important information on not only those companies but also some macroeconomic trends likely to influence markets over the year like the natural gas boom. Thousands have already seen it, and now's your chance. You can get it right here.

At the time this article was published Fool contributorJeremy Bowmanowns shares of Apple, but holds no other positions in the companies in this article. The Motley Fool owns shares of Wal-Mart Stores, Starbucks, Amazon.com, Apple, and PepsiCo.Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Apple, ExxonMobil, Chesapeake Energy, Starbucks, Wal-Mart Stores, PepsiCo, and Amazon.com, writing covered calls on Starbucks, creating a diagonal call position in PepsiCo, creating a bull call spread position in Apple, and creating a diagonal call position in Wal-Mart Stores. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

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