Stock Market Today

Stock Market Today: Stocks Jump to Life on Manufacturing Data, J&J Vaccine

The bulls were out in force Monday amid a big lift in U.S. manufacturing activity and another COVID vaccine approval.

A confluence of positive drivers jolted the bulls awake Monday, triggering an across-the-board rally to kick off March.

The Institute for Supply Management's manufacturing index rose 2.1 points to a two-year high of 60.8, with any number above 50 implying expansion in activity. That was much better than the consensus expectation of 58.9.

"These readings suggest that factories are still struggling to catch up with strong goods demand – from final sales and restocking – in the face of intensified supply constraints," says Jonathan Millar, deputy chief U.S. economist at Barclays Investment Bank.

Over the weekend, the Food and Drug Administration approved Johnson & Johnson's (JNJ, +0.5%) single-dose COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use, with distribution expected to begin soon. Also over the weekend, the House narrowly passed President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion stimulus package. 

Declining rates on most U.S. government bonds Monday also tamped down fears that held back equities last week.

Every sector finished in the green, with financial stocks and technology shares leading the way. The Nasdaq Composite was tops among the blue-chip averages, gaining 3.0% to 13,588; strong performance from Tesla (TSLA, +6.4%) and Apple (AAPL, +5.4%) helped push the tech-heavy index higher.

Other action in the stock market today:

  • The Dow Jones Industrial Average improved by 2% to 31,535.
  • The S&P 500 climbed 2.4% to 3,901.
  • The small-cap Russell 2000 shot 3.4% higher to 2,275.
  • U.S. crude oil futures declined 1.5% to settle at $60.57 per barrel.
  • Gold futures slipped 0.3% to $1,723 per ounce.
  • Bitcoin prices, at $46,381 on Friday, slumped to the $44,500 level during the weekend but finished Monday at $48,266, a 4.1% improvement. (Bitcoin trades 24 hours a day; prices reported here are as of 4 p.m. each trading day.)
stock chart for 030121

The Stage Is Set for Dividends

Could dividend stocks be set up for a long stint of outperformance? It's an idea posited by a team of BlackRock strategists and portfolio managers.

In a "BlackRock Multi-Asset Income Insight," the team points out that high-dividend stocks lagged the S&P 500 by 30% last year; while admitting that history won't necessarily repeat itself, they write that "the last time we saw this big of a performance differential was in 1999. Thereafter, dividend stocks outperformed equities for the next seven years."

In addition to that history lesson, BlackRock's team points out many stocks are offering higher yields than their corporate bonds, while also reminding investors that yields on dividends can rise; bond coupons are fixed.

It's difficult to have a conversation about dividends (and certainly dividend growth) without mentioning the Dividend Aristocrats, 65 stocks that have proven their financial mettle by increasing their payouts without interruption for a minimum of 25 years. But the true royalty within this group are the Dividend Kings, which have upped the ante each year like clockwork for at least half a century.

It's a shorter list, to be sure, but one that includes some of the most durable dividends on Wall Street – in several cases, these payouts have grown steadily for a century or longer.

Read on as we look at our updated list of these seemingly unstoppable dividend payers.

Kyle Woodley was long Bitcoin as of this writing.

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