Evidence That the Economy Is Healing Barely Fuels Stocks


Blue-chip stocks are narrowly holding onto gains this afternoon following a big week for earnings, and a critical announcement about the health of the economy. With less than an hour left in the trading session, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is up by 10 points, or 0.07%.

Fueling the market today was an announcement from the Commerce Department that GDP grew by 2.5% in the first three months of the year. As my colleague John Divine discussed earlier this morning, the economy was aided by an uptick in personal consumption expenditures, which improved by 3.2% in the quarter. Growth was nevertheless weighed down by a decrease in government spending, which shrank by 8.4% over the same time period.

All in all, as the market's reaction demonstrates, the news was positive. It was a dramatic improvement, for instance, over the fourth quarter of last year, during which real GDP grew at an annual rate of only 0.4%. However, it's always important to remember that the first estimate of GDP is just that -- an estimate. To John's point, revisions typically differ from advance estimates by half a percentage point.

In terms of individual stocks, shares of Chevron are headed higher in afternoon trading after the oil giant reported first-quarter earnings (link opens PDF) before the bell. While the oil giant saw its revenue and net income decline by 6.4% and 4.5%, respectively, its earnings per share managed to come in ahead of estimates. For the three months ended March 31, the company earned $3.31 per share compared to the consensus estimate of $3.09 per share. Like ExxonMobil, which reported yesterday, Chevron's top and bottom lines were the latest victims of falling global oil prices.

Also headed higher today are shares of Boeing , which are currently up by 1.4%. The move comes on the heels of Japan's announcement that the company's flagship 787 Dreamliner should soon be cleared to fly again, after its battery fix was approved by regulators in that country. On its conference call two days ago, Boeing's CEO expressed optimism that the problem will soon be in the rearview mirror, and that 787 deliveries will begin again in May.

Meanwhile, shares of Hewlett-Packard are leading the Dow higher, up 3.1% at the time of writing. There doesn't seem to be any specific impetus for the move, and volume is in line with the average. Bloomberg News published an interesting article on the company this morning, noting that it published a list of the 195 smelters that supply materials for HP computers. As the news agency pointed, out, this is a rare occurrence given that the smelting stage is "where some of the most abhorrent labor violations and corrupt business activity can take place." To read more about this, click here.

Alternatively, shares of 3M continue to drag on the blue-chip index. The industrial conglomerate reported its earnings yesterday, sending shares in the company down nearly 3%. Like many of its peers on the Dow, 3M saw its revenue decline on a year-over-year basis, and felt compelled to lower its forward earnings guidance for the remainder of the year.

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John Maxfield has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends 3M and Chevron. 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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Originally published