These Stocks Are Leading the Dow's Surge

At the halfway point of the trading day, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI) is up 121 points (0.91%) to 13,558. The S&P 500 (INDEX: ^GSPC) is up eight points (0.58%) to 1,446.

There were two economic releases this morning which were mixed for stocks. Let's take a look:





Institute for Supply Management Purchasing Managers' index




Construction spending




Source: MarketWatch U.S. Economic Calendar.

The September ISM PMI rose from the three-year low it hit last month to 51.5, above analyst expectations of 49.7. Investors have been seeing a slowdown in manufacturing around the world, and this was positive and unexpected news.

The U.S. Department of Commerce reported this morning that construction spending fell 0.6% in August, worse than July's 0.4% drop and below analyst expectations of 0.7% growth. Private and public construction both fell. There was some good news, however: Private-home construction rose 0.9% in August, continuing the housing market's uptrend of the past few months.

Last week the pending home sales index from the National Association of Realtors was reported. The index came in at 99.2, down from last month's 101.7. That's still up 11% versus a year ago.

The markets as a whole are up, and a few stocks are pushing the Dow higher.

Today's Dow Leaders
Today's Dow leader is Bank of America (NYS: BAC) , up 2.495% ($0.22) to $9.05, followed by JPMorgan Chase (NYS: JPM) in second, up 2.32% ($0.94) to $41.42. The Fed's recent stimulus announcement has pushed up the banking sector as a whole. The stimulus will be a boon for the big banks, as their performance is highly dependent on the health of the economy. Today's unexpectedly positive ISM PMI bodes well for the economy, and as such, both the banks are up. Fool analyst John Maxfield believes Bank of America is the Dow's best stock. He recently took an in-depth look at Bank of America and identified the three biggest risks to the bank. Click here for his take.

Third for the day is American Express (NYS: AXP) , up 1.85% ($1.05) to $57.91. Like Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase, American Express does well when the economy is doing well and people are spending money. That said, there was some American Express-specific news today. American Express agreed to pay $28 million in fees and refund $85 million to 250,000 customers to settle claims that it charged illegal late fees and used high-pressure sales tactics. Fool analyst Sean Williams recently wrote about how American Express could be a dividend juggernaut of the future. Click here for his take.

The best approach
The rest of the week is full of potentially market-shaking events. Watching the broad market each day is exciting, but investing doesn't have to be gut-wrenching and stressful. If you're in the mood to pick up some solid buys for the long term, The Motley Fool has created a brand-new free report from Motley Fool's expert analysts called "2 Dirt Cheap Stocks With Huge Dividends." It won't be available forever, so click here -- it's free.

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Dan Dzombak can be found on his Facebook page. He holds no position in any company mentioned. Click here and like his Facebook page to follow his investing articles. The Motley Fool owns shares of JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a write covered strangle position in American Express. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools may not 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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