The Dow's Earnings Tug-of-War Continues


Earnings season is in full swing, and investors are fully focused on how the most influential stocks in the market performed during the second quarter. Although economic data showing a drop of 5.4% in home sales during June didn't help the market, the National Association of Realtors report differs from the assessment of the Federal Reserve's Beige Book, which found that home sales improved in all 12 districts of the country. After being in both positive and negative territory, the Dow Jones Industrials (INDEX: ^DJI) were up 18 points just before 10:45 a.m. EDT.

Conflicting earnings news helped contribute to the Dow's lack of a strong move in either direction. On one hand, IBM (NYS: IBM) soared 3.5% as the company posted better-than-expected earnings last night. Although revenue declined due to slow hardware sales and a strong dollar, IBM boosted its profit forecast for the full year, and it looks like the company's strategy to focus on higher-margin areas like software is paying off.

On the other side of the coin was American Express (NYS: AXP) , which was down 4%. The company beat earnings estimates for the second quarter, with total worldwide card spending jumping 6.7% and average customer purchases rising 4.8%. But investors seemed to focus on CEO Kenneth Chenault's comments that spending growth is slower than in previous quarters. With weakness in retail sales, which makes up a big portion of AmEx's card spending, the card issuer could face headwinds for some time. Moreover, AmEx noted that despite the settlement between merchants and card networks Visa (NYS: V) and MasterCard, it doesn't plan to allow merchants to add surcharges on AmEx cards, noting that 50% of its billings in the U.S. come from states that prohibit such surcharges.

Finally, United Technologies (NYS: UTX) was up slightly after reports that it plans to sell its Rocketdyne rocket-engine division. The move is consistent with a strategy of selling off its ancillary businesses to focus on its Goodrich acquisition, and the sale might encourage remaining regulators that the Goodrich merger wouldn't be anti-competitive.

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Fool contributor Dan Caplinger doesn't own shares of the companies mentioned. You can follow him on Twitter @DanCaplinger. The Motley Fool owns shares of MasterCard and IBM and has created a bear call spread position in American Express. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Visa, writing a covered strangle position on American Express, and creating a synthetic long position on IBM. 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 Fool has a disclosure policy.

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