Why the Dow Is Headed Higher Today


Blue-chip stocks are broadly higher today on the heels of two important economic reports and yesterday's better-than-expected earnings from Alcoa . With roughly an hour left in the trading session, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is higher by 75 points, or 0.49%.

Aluminum giant Alcoa unofficially kicked off second-quarter earnings season yesterday after the closing bell. For the three months ended June 30, the company posted a loss of $119 million compared with a $2 million loss in the same quarter last year. However, as my colleague Matt Thalman discussed earlier, if you back out the $195 million in restructuring charges, then the company actually posted earnings of $76 million, or $0.07 per share.

This positive news was followed today by a report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimating that the number of job openings across the country increased in May by 1.4%. You can see this in the chart below.

While the growth rate was slower than in the preceding month, when the number of job openings skyrocketed by 7.3%, there are two things to note. First, it grew against an impressive month last year. In May of 2012, the number of open jobs shot up by 22% on a year-over-year basis. And second, any movement in the right direction should be welcomed.

Also out today were results from the National Federation of Independent Business' small-business optimism index. The figure for the current month came in at 93.5, down from last month's 94.4. As the NFIB's chief economist noted: "After two months of incremental but solid gains, the Index gave up in June. This appears par for the course, given that there is no reason for small employers to be more optimistic and lots of things to worry about."

In terms of individual stocks, IBM is the worst-performing component on the Dow this afternoon, down by 1.6% at the time of writing. The decline was not coincidentally preceded by Goldman Sachs' downgrade of the technology company's stock. The rationale paralleled a similar downgrade of Intel yesterday. According to the research note explaining the decision, it was motivated by a forecast decrease in demand from emerging markets, where IBM gets roughly $17 billion in revenue.

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John Maxfield has no position in any stocks mentioned. 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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