Why the Dow Picked Up 115 Points Today


Standing firmly behind the Federal Reserve's quantitative easing initiatives, Chairman Ben Bernanke quieted speculation that the central bank was taking it easy on bond-buying initiatives anytime soon. Big Ben's soothing tone, combined with news that new-home sales reached nearly five-year highs in January, sent markets skyward. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 115 points, or 0.84%, to close at 13,900.

A propitious combination of the good housing data and impressive quarterly results fueled Home Depot today, sparking a 5.7% jump. Not only were fourth-quarter earnings boosted by spending on Hurricane Sandy-related repairs, but management announced it would both boost its dividend and buy back stock. The home-improvement retailer benefited from a flurry of great news on Tuesday to lead the Dow.

But the aspiring tech turnaround Hewlett-Packard also stood out today, rocketing 3.9% higher on news that its HP Slate 7-inch tablet will run Google's Android OS. Android is, putting it lightly, a bit more proven than HP's own OS (called WebOS), which the company tried putting on the HP TouchPad to disastrous results. No blue-chip stock really stood out as an underperformer today; the biggest laggard was UnitedHealth Group, and it dropped a meager 0.5%.

Shares of priceline.com added 1% today before surging as much as 5% after hours following its quarterly report. Profits were higher than expected, benefiting from success in European and Asian markets. International bookings were up 40% year over year, coming in at $5.5 billion.

Apple also had a good day on Tuesday, rising 1.4% on speculation that the company might split the stock, which currently trades for nearly $450 per share. The last time the Cupertino tech giant split its stock was eight years ago, in Feb. 2005. The company is trying to reignite interest in its shares, which have fallen more than 35% from their 52-week highs of nearly $700 this past September. CEO Tim Cook's philosophy with Apple's cash hoard is a bit different from that of iconic founder Steve Jobs. For instance, Apple announced its first quarterly dividend since 1995 less than a year ago.

There's no doubt that Apple is at the center of technology's largest revolution ever, and that longtime shareholders have been handsomely rewarded with over 1,000% gains. However, there is a debate raging as to whether Apple remains a buy. The Motley Fool's senior technology analyst and managing bureau chief, Eric Bleeker, is prepared to fill you in on both reasons to buy and reasons to sell Apple and what opportunities are left for the company (and your portfolio) going forward. To get instant access to his latest thinking on Apple, simply click here now.

The article Why the Dow Picked Up 115 Points Today originally appeared on Fool.com.

Fool contributor John Divine owns shares of Apple. You can follow him on Twitter @divinebizkid and on Motley Fool CAPS @TMFDivine.The Motley Fool recommends Apple, Google, Home Depot, Priceline.com, and UnitedHealth Group. It owns shares of Apple, Google, and Priceline.com. 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.

Copyright © 1995 - 2013 The Motley Fool, LLC. All rights reserved. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.