These Stocks Pulled the Dow Up

The one thing that just about every investor wants to see right now is any sign of economic growth. Today, investors got their wish, as the Institute for Supply Management's Purchasing Managers' Index came in with a positive reading that points to expansion in the near future. That optimism was tempered somewhat by weakening overseas economies as well as some comments from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke. By the end of the day, the Dow Jones Industrials (INDEX: ^DJI) were well off their highs but still finished up almost 80 points.

Some Dow stocks did quite a bit better than that, though. New Dow component UnitedHealth Group (NYS: UNH) climbed nearly 2% as the company announced its Medicare plan offerings for 2013. With its right to use the AARP brand, UnitedHealth's Medicare plans are popular and stand to gain customers as the baby boom generation becomes eligible for Medicare. The key is whether UnitedHealth will continue to realize cost savings from using affiliated network pharmacies that will allow it to boost profits.

American Express (NYS: AXP) jumped 1.5% despite having been ordered to pay $85 million in refunds to customers as well as another $27.5 million in fines after settling allegations of charging improper late fees and other wrongdoing with the Federal Reserve, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the FDIC, and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. AmEx's settlement comes just a week after a similar agreement with Discover Financial (NYS: DFS) over payment-protection and credit monitoring services for its cardholders.

Finally, IBM (NYS: IBM) rose almost 1.5%, hitting an all-time high as it got a favorable price-target boost from a stock analyst. The company has done a good job of positioning itself for a global recovery, but interestingly, IBM has been mentioned as a potential bidder for bankrupt ResCap and its mortgage-servicing portfolio. That's not the first business you might think of IBM being in, but it could be a lucrative one going forward.

Looking up
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Fool contributorDan Caplingerdoesn't own shares of the companies mentioned in this article. You can follow him on Twitter,@DanCaplinger. The Motley Fool owns shares of IBM.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended buying shares of and creating a diagonal call position on UnitedHealth Group, as well as creating a synthetic long position in IBM and writing a covered strangle position in American Express. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days. We Fools don't 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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