The Dow Jones Industrial Average managed to gain 27.36 points, or 0.27 percent at 11:10 a.m. ET, as several of its components made big gains. The stocks that lifted the index into positive territory include Travelers (NYSE:TRV), Alcoa (NYSE:AA), Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT), and American Express (NYSE:AXP).
A better than expected consumer confidence figure was reported at 10:00 am this morning. The Conference Board’s confidence index rose to 55.9, up from revised figure of 53.6 in December. According to Bloomberg, it beat estimates of 53.5 and is at the highest level since September 2008.
The survey showed that the number of people who claim jobs are “hard to get” declined while those who claimed jobs are “plentiful” increased.
Retailers were lifted by this report as Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) gained 1.39 percent, Target (NYSE:TGT) gained 2.30 percent, and Macy’s (NYSE:M) gained 1.55 percent.
Alcoa was upgraded by BMO Capital Markets from “underperform” to “market perform” and American Express was upgraded from “sell” to “neutral” by Ladenburg Thalmann. Alcoa jumped 2.54 percent and American Express gained 2.41 percent.
Travelers, the insurance giant, leads the Dow with a gain of 3.31 percent. It reported earnings of $2.12 per share, well above the Wall Street expectation of $1.49, a gain of 34 percent year-on-year. Fourth quarter revenues of $6.456 were up 11 percent year-on-year.
The EPS figure is the best since Travelers went public in 2002. It reported a low quarterly combined ratio of 78.8 percent, down from 85.7 percent in 2008. A low combined ratio indicates that an insurance company’s claims payout and expenses are low compared to the premiums it collects.