The Questionable Rationale Behind the Dow's 111-Point Surge

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Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over daily movements, we do like to keep an eye on market changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.

Stocks were in rally mode for a second straight day Friday as Wall Street placed further bets on a debt deal being reached to avoid a U.S. default. Despite the optimism, today's gains are fueled by little more than the willingness of President Obama and GOP conservatives to continue a dialogue. So with the hope of a weekend resolution in the air, the Dow Jones Industrial Average jumped 111 points, or 0.7%, to end at 15,237. 

Johnson & Johnson led the Dow higher, adding 1.9%. That's uncharacteristic for shares of the health-care giant: As one of the largest public companies in the world, its stock is hardly volatile. An upgrade from Goldman Sachs spurred today's gains; the banker cited an improved pharmaceutical pipeline as the catalyst. While Johnson & Johnson may not be the most exciting stock to own, it's steady performers like this that helped Warren Buffett become one of the wealthiest individuals in the world. 

Dow newcomer Visa also ended higher, rising 1.7%. After becoming an official blue chip just last month, the credit card company suddenly plays a leading role in the Dow's performance: Visa now constitutes 8% of the 30-stock index. If the government shutdown finally ends and a default can be avoided, Visa should see improved prospects as government employees get back to work just in time to use their plastic over the holidays.

There were just a handful of Dow decliners today, with agricultural giant DuPont's 0.6% loss highlighting the underperformers. Recent years have seen the battle between DuPont and Monsanto intensify as the propagation of genetically modified organisms has spread. The two companies have been taking each other to court for patent disputes and antitrust claims since last year. 

Lastly, Boeing shares shed 0.8% pulling back after a nearly 4% surge yesterday. While the company's 56% gains in 2013 are certainly impressive, Boeing's many quality control issues that have popped up this year are disconcerting. From a fire breaking out on a 787 Dreamliner in January to a faulty pump on a 787 in recent weeks, Boeing hasn't been able to stay out of the news for mechanical issues this year.

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Fool contributor John Divine has no position in any stocks mentioned.  You can follow him on Twitter @divinebizkid and on Motley Fool CAPS @TMFDivine . The Motley Fool recommends Goldman Sachs. It recommends and owns shares of Johnson & Johnson and Visa. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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