Can Consumers Sustain the Dow's Record Highs?

Consumers play a vital role in the U.S. economy. So today's news on consumer sentiment, which signaled levels of optimism not seen in nearly six years, provided more fuel for the long series of new highs for the stock market. Add to that a better-than-expected gain in the Leading Economic Index, which is designed to predict future economic activity, and it's easy to understand why the Dow Jones Industrials are up sharply, rising about 54 points, or 0.35%, as of 10:50 a.m. EDT. The broader market gained even more on a percentage basis, with the S&P 500 up 0.48% and on track for a new record of its own.

Leading the Dow higher is Boeing , which is up more than 2%. As the company moves beyond the extensive problems with its 787 Dreamliner aircraft, it recently received its first order for its 737 MAX 7 model, with Southwest Airlines converting some of its orders for other 737 models to the MAX 7. Southwest has traditionally operated only 737 aircraft, saving money by avoiding the need for pilots and maintenance crews trained on many different models. But Boeing can expect plenty more orders for the MAX 7 and other updated 737 variations in the years to come.

Sharing in the aerospace limelight is United Technologies , up 1.9% this morning. The surge in commercial-aircraft orders was likely responsible for United Tech's decision to focus more heavily on the industry, with its purchase of Goodrich cementing its place as a major supplier of components and systems for various types of aircraft. Moreover, by relying less on military aircraft programs for its aerospace profit, United Tech is in a better position to handle ongoing budget pressures from the Department of Defense and other governments around the world.

Finally, outside the Dow, Aruba Networks has plunged more than 27% after announcing poor earnings and giving disappointing guidance for the current quarter. Given the impressive results that Dow component Cisco Systems announced earlier this week, Aruba's news only highlights the extreme competitive pressures that the network industry is experiencing right now.

Boeing is a major player in a multitrillion-dollar market in which the opportunities are massive. However, emerging competitors and the company's execution problems have investors wondering whether Boeing will live up to its shareholder responsibilities. In our premium research report on the company, two of The Motley Fool's best industrial-sector minds have collaborated to provide investors with the must-know info on Boeing. They'll be updating the report as key news hits, so don't miss out -- simply click here now to claim your copy today.

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Fool contributor Dan Caplinger has no position in any stocks mentioned. You can follow him on Twitter @DanCaplinger. The Motley Fool recommends Cisco Systems and Southwest Airlines. 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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