Another Record-Setting Day for the Markets


After weeks of flirting with the all-time high, and watching the Dow break its all-time high eight days in a row, the S&P 500 finally set its own record. Today the index broke its previously set all-time closing high of 1,565, when it managed to gain 6.34 points, or 0.41% today, and close at 1,569. Both the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the NASDAQ rose higher, as well, but by slightly lower percentages. The Dow gained 52 points, or 0.36%, while the NASDAQ rose 0.34%.

The record was set on a day when investors were hit with a mixed bag of macro-economic events and data points. The Cypriot banks opened today essentially without a hitch, which was seen as a positive, but jobless claims here at home rose last week by 16,000, to 357,000, for the week ending March 23. Increased unemployment is never a good thing, but that negative data point was rebutted today by a revised GDP number for the fourth quarter of 2012. The government's final reading was 0.4% growth during the last three months of last year, which is much better than the initial reading of a 0.1% contraction, or even the reading from last month, which reported growth of only 0.1% for the final months of 2012.

As we all know, the indexes are moved by the underlining components. So let's take a look at a few of the Dow's big winners today.

A few Dow winners
After rising 1.75% yesterday, shares of UnitedHealth continued their climb higher today, gaining another 1.04%. The reason for both yesterday's and today's rise is that many market participants believe the Medicare Advantage reimbursement rates will not be slashed as previously expected. UnitedHealth is one of the largest health-care insurers, and a large portion of its revenue comes from Medicare and other government programs. If future rates remain the same or increase, the company's revenue and profits should benefit.

The Dow's technology stocks played a large role in today's move higher. Shares of IBM rose 1.14%, while Hewlett-Packard gained 1.1%, and even big softy Microsoft joined the party, as shares inched higher by 0.83%. My Fool colleague John Divine noted earlier today that demand for supercomputers is rising, and that sales of high-end devices rose 30% last year. This news certainly helped IBM today, and likely pushed H-P higher, as well. While most would agree that IBM offers the top-of-the-line products in this space, H-P has been emphasizing the quality of their own mainframes, but at a lower price.

Personally, I'm not yet sold on H-P's turnaround plans, and wouldn't be a buyer today, but that's not to say that it couldn't be the right company for some investors. Find out more about whether this is one of the least-appreciated turnaround stories on the market, or a minor blip on its road to irrelevance. The Motley Fool's technology analyst details exactly what investors need to know about HP in our new premium research report. Just click here now to get your copy today.

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Fool contributor Matt Thalman has no position in any stocks mentioned. Follow Matt on Twitter: @mthalman5513. Check back Monday through Friday as Matt explains what caused the Dow's winners and losers of the day, and every Saturday for a weekly recap. The Motley Fool recommends UnitedHealth Group. The Motley Fool owns shares of International Business Machines. 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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