GE, UnitedHealth Carry the Dow Higher Tuesday

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April 17, 2018: Markets opened higher for a fourth straight session Tuesday on a solid first-quarter earnings gains among some blue chip stocks. Housing starts came in higher, but gains are flattening out and productivity gains remain muted by excess capacity. Some analysts are looking at earnings increases more as a result of lower tax rates than a fundamental improvement.

WTI crude oil for May delivery settled at $66.52 a barrel, up 0.5% for the day. June gold dropped about 0.1% on the day to settle at $1,349.50. Equities were headed for a higher close about 10 minutes before the bell as the Dow traded up 1.07% for the day, the S&P 500 traded up 1.27%, and the Nasdaq Composite traded up 1.93%.

Bitcoin futures (XBTJ8) for April delivery traded at $7,890, down about 0.8% on the CBOE after opening at $8,010 this morning. The digital currency’s trading range for the day was $7,830 to $8,170.

The Dow stock posting the largest daily percentage gain ahead of the close Tuesday was General Electric Co. (NYSE: GE) which traded up 3.26% at $13.77. The stock’s 52-week range is $12.73 to $30.54. Volume was about 45% below the daily average of around 92 million. There was a report out this morning that GE’s industrial-gas engine business may have drummed up some interest from a potential buyer.

UnitedHealth Group Inc. (NYSE: UNH) traded up 3.37% at $238.09. The stock’s 52-week range is $166.55 to $250.79. Volume was about 20% higher than the daily average of around 4 million shares. The company reported better-than-expected results before markets opened this morning.

Cisco Systems Inc. (NASDAQ: CSCO) traded up 3.14% at $44.66 in a 52-week range of $30.36 to $46.16. Volume of about 16 million shares was about 45% below the daily average. The company had no specific news Tuesday.

International Business Machines Corp. (NYSE: IBM) traded up 2.44% at $161.74. The stock’s 52-week range is $139.13 to $171.69. Volume was about 20% above the daily average of around 5.3 million. The company reports quarterly earnings after the bell today.

Of the Dow stocks, 25 are on track to close higher Tuesday and 5 are set to close lower.

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