Morning Dow Report: UnitedHealth, Chevron Rise; Caterpillar Keeps Sinking

Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over daily movements, we do like to keep an eye on market changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.

Economic news came back into the forefront as the Dow Jones Industrials climbed by 91 points as of 11 a.m. EST. Investors chose to see a larger-than-expected plunge in jobless claims as positive for the economy, rather than as a possible contributing factor toward the Fed pulling back on its stimulus measures. The broader market posted even stronger gains, and UnitedHealth Group and Chevron were among the most notable rising stocks even as Caterpillar kept pressuring the average downward.

UnitedHealth Group rose nearly 2% as controversy over the Affordable Care Act continues to make the stock's movements volatile. The decision from the Obama administration to allow states to extend noncompliant health-insurance policies for another year has created discord both among state insurance regulators and among health insurance companies. Small health insurers believe UnitedHealth and other big players could gain competitive advantages from measures to streamline sign-ups through health-insurance exchanges, while political tensions led some state insurance commissioners not to attend a meeting with President Barack Obama about the measure. UnitedHealth shareholders appear convinced, though, that even amid the strife, Obamacare's resolution will lead to better times ahead.

Chevron rose 1% as its ongoing trial to have a massive multibillion-dollar Ecuadoran court verdict struck down continued. On Tuesday, the attorney sued by Chevron took the stand, arguing that his actions were justified and denying doing anything wrong in answering the company's charges of civil racketeering. With the trial nearing an end, the decision could have substantial ramifications for the oil giant, with even a recently reduced award still posing a potential $9.5 billion threat to Chevron's balance sheet.

Despite the bullish mood, Caterpillar fell another 0.6%. Yesterday's report of plunging equipment sales in October only emphasized the long turnaround that the heavy-equipment maker faces, especially in formerly high-growth areas like the Asia-Pacific region. For Caterpillar to get back on its feet, it ideally needs to see commodity prices start to rise and industrial activity reemerge in key emerging markets. Only then will it have the strongest cyclical tailwinds behind it to push its growth higher in the years to come.

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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 Chevron and UnitedHealth Group. 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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