Dow Keeps On Keeping On

The Dow Jones Industrial Average hit yet another record high today, as stocks had a late-day run for the second session in a row today. The buying activity seems to indicate increased optimism about earnings season as the blue chips finished at 14.673, up 60 points or 0.4%, momentarily climbing above 14,700. Investors have now had a two-day breather from any significant economic reports or macroeconomic events, and stocks have made solid gains both days. Despite the continuing bull run, however, there have been 4.7 times as many negative pre-announcements as positive ones, the worst proportion since 2001, according to Thomson Reuters, indicating that there may be reason to fear earnings season.

Tech stocks led the Dow today, as Microsoft and Intel both moved up more than 3%. The Windows maker joined a group of tech companies including Oracle and Nokia filing a complaint against Google in the European Union, which accused the search giant of anti-competitive behavior in its Android strategy. One of the group's lawyers called Android "a Trojan horse used to deceive partners, monopolize the mobile marketplace, and control consumer data." Google has become a major rival of Microsoft's in recent years, as Google vies for dominance in software with its Chrome Internet browser and Google Docs office products. Microsoft, on the other hand, has challenged Google's search leadership with Bing and is also gunning for a piece of the smartphone and tablet market.

Intel, meanwhile, finished up 3.1% after it unveiled its new Thunderbolt interface technology yesterday, which runs at twice the speed of the previous model. The top chipmaker also said that it had begun shipping samples of a system-in-a-chip, known as "Avoton," to Hewlett-Packard to be used in its new Moonshot servers. HP also finished the day up 1.5%.

One other sector flying high today was solar as First Solar jumped 46% after acquiring TetraSun, a Silicon Valley start-up, and providing an outlook way above Wall Street's estimates. The TetraSun acquisition, for an undisclosed amount, gives First Solar access to the higher-efficiency solar-panel market that its own panels are not suited for. The company also estimated EPS for the year to come in between $4 and $4.50, while Wall Street had projected just $3.51. The rally led other solar stocks up as well, as Yingli Green Energy finished up 21% and Trina Solar gained 15%.

On the other side of the spectrum, J.C. Penney dropped 12% as investors reacted to Ron Johnson's dismissal and replacement with Mike Ullman, the retailer's former CEO. Johnson's termination marks the end of a misadventure that included a new shops-within-the-shop strategy as well as the elimination of discounts that caused sales to drop by more than 25% last year. First-quarter same-store sales are also down 10% at Penney so far, according to The Wall Street Journal, indicating that the pain is far from over. What Mike Ullman's plans for the department-store chain are remain to be seen.

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