Proctor & Gamble, 3M Push the Dow Higher


Earnings season marches on, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average is taking full advantage of one member's strong report today. The index is up 60 points, or 0.5%, to hit yet another 52-week high in what has been a terrific start to 2013 for the markets. Only six stocks on the Dow are in the red today, and one conglomerate's outstanding quarter is leading the packing by a wide margin.

Conglomerates roll with earnings
Proctor & Gamble
reported earnings for its fiscal second quarter today, and the company crushed it. Earnings per share of $1.22 beat both estimates and management guidance thanks to improved margins and revenue. Management was happy enough with the results to increase its 2013 outlook, as well. P&G is one of the most stable stocks on the market and a true portfolio bedrock, but days like today -- with shares up 3.5% -- are another reward for investors in this tried-and-true company.

Consumer goods staple 3M is also rising on impressive earnings, with shares up 1.1%. The company grew profit by 4% in the most recent quarter, expanding its margins slightly while also managing to increase revenue. 3M's stock is up 16% over the past year, and like P&G, it's a safe, stable, well-diversified pick for any portfolio. The company may not be a growth juggernaut, but investors looking for a stock to build around could do much worse.

Earnings aren't the only thing powering Dow stocks today, however. JPMorgan has taken off, up 1.3% this afternoon, after Deutsche Bank raised its price target on the company and upgraded it to a "buy." The company reported a third year of record profits last year, and its stock delivered: Shares of JP Morgan have soared more than 31% over the past six months alone.

There are few real laggards to mention, but Caterpillar is leading all losers down, with shares shedding 1.5% so far today. The company doesn't report earnings until next week, but Caterpillar did report its first decline in machine sales in more than two years today, citing sluggish demand in Asia. Investors have taken that as a bad sign today, although we won't get the official details until the company's earnings are released.

Caterpillar is the market share leader in an industry in which size matters, and its quality products, extensive service network, and unparalleled brand strength combine to give it solid competitive advantages. Read all about Caterpillar's strengths and weaknesses in our brand-new report. Just click here to access it now.

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Fool contributor Dan Carroll has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends 3M and Procter & Gamble. The Motley Fool owns shares of JPMorgan Chase & Co. 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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