Nothing seems to be able to stop the stock market from going higher. The latest boost came on the same day that Apple announced that it would pay its first dividend since 1995. But the gains were somewhat muted, as lingering concerns persist about the health of the overall economy. State tax revenue slowed to just a 2.7% pace in the fourth quarter of 2011, bringing into question whether the recovery will be able to support higher levels of government spending. The Dow Jones Industrials (INDEX: ^DJI) finished up 7 points, to 13,239. The S&P 500 finished up 0.4%.
A few stocks in the Dow stood out from the crowd today. Let's take a closer look at three of them.
American Express (NYSE: AXP) , up 1.3%
AmEx continued a healthy day for most of the financial stocks. Sentiment among homebuilders stayed near five-year highs, and with the construction industry remaining a big source of loan demand for banks, better conditions bode well for loan activity.
Of course, although AmEx has a banking unit, its main emphasis being on its charge-card business. But with the company having worked hard to keep up with its rivals on the mobile-payments front, AmEx looks poised to handle changing conditions well.
Alcoa (NYSE: AA) , up 0.6%
Economically sensitive Alcoa seems to move up or down in lockstep with sentiment about the recovery. But today, the company got some relevant news from within its industry.
The Brazilian aluminum association Abal announced today that aluminum output rose 6% from year-ago levels. Yet that news wasn't entirely good for Alcoa, as its own production was flat from Feb. 2011 and down significantly during the past several months. Still, the company avoided the declines that BHP Billiton (NYS: BHP) posted. What Alcoa really needs is demand in line with these better output figures, in order to raise prices and make the aluminum maker more profitable.
Cisco (Nasdaq: CSCO) , up 0.6%
With all the news about Apple, Cisco stayed mostly in the background today. But the company said it had completed its buyout of privately held Lightwire, which makes technology to facilitate high-speed networking.
With the acquisition, Cisco should be able to keep moving forward in the rapidly evolving optical-networking space. Given the increasing demand for cloud-based services, networking will become only more important in the future, and Cisco needs to retain its leadership role in the space.
Enjoying the bull
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At the time thisarticle was published Fool contributorDan Caplingerdoesn't own shares of the companies mentioned. You can follow him on Twitterhere. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple and Cisco Systems.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended buying shares and creating a bull call spread position on Apple, as well as writing a covered strangle position in American Express. 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 Fool has adisclosure policy.
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