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Blue-Chip Dow Stays Strong; Trucker At New High | Stock News & Stock Market Analysis

Stock indexes were mixed midday Thursday, but the blue-chip Dow Jones industrial average kept its leadership role vs. the major indexes.

XAutoplay: On | OffThe Dow rose 0.4%, while the S&P 500 and Nasdaq advanced 0.3% and 0.1%, respectively. The small-cap Russell 2000 added 0.5%.

Volume in the stock market today was higher on the NYSE and lower on the Nasdaq  vs. the same time Wednesday.

In each of the previous three weeks, the Dow has outperformed the major indexes. The Dow also is leading so far this week.

What accounts for that?

Four Dow components are largely responsible. So far this month, Wal-Mart Stores (WMT) is up 14%; 3M (MMM), 12%; Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), 10%; and Caterpillar (CAT), 10%.

Also, the 30-component Dow is a price-weighted index, and three of the four stocks are in the top 10 in price. Caterpillar, 3M and Johnson & Johnson recently reported earnings and each topped the Street’s consensus views on earnings and revenue.

Wal-Mart will report quarterly results before the open Nov. 16. The Street expects revenue to rise 2%, but earnings to slip 1%.

In the IBD 50, a list of some of the best stocks in fundamentals and technicals, advancing issues led declining issues by a 7-to-4 ratio.

The top percentage gainer was Old Dominion Freight Line (ODFL), which popped more than 5% in heavy volume. The trucking firm reported earnings that rose 20%, topping the Street’s consensus estimate for a 13% increase. Revenue grew 12%, which beat views for a 9% gain.

Going into Thursday’s session, the trucking group was No. 9 in six-month price performance among 197 industry groups. The group was up 1.9% midday Thursday.

Close behind in the IBD 50 was PRA Health Sciences (PRAH), which rose 4% in heavy volume. The stock cleared an 81.09 buy point earlier this month, but volume was unimpressive and the stock made little progress. Today’s action looks more confident.

PRA reported quarterly results, topping views on the top and bottom line. Earnings rose 38% and revenue 28%. After-tax margin was 9.9%, the best in at least 19 quarters.

On the downside midday Thursday, China-based TAL Education (TAL) staggered 10% lower on quarterly results that missed views. The stock plunged below its 50-day moving average in heavy volume.

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