Dow Watch: Higher With Meredith's Help

(At 4:33 p.m. EDT)

Monday's rally on the Dow was indeed a strong one, thanks to Meredith Whitney's call on Goldman Sachs ( GS), as I mentioned earlier. The blue chip average jumped 185 points to 8331, finishing at its highest point of the session.

There are still a few things for bulls to remember, though. As I said earlier, analysts polled by Thomson Reuters on earnings estimates are not painting a pretty picture. In addition, despite climbing nearly 200 points in one day, the Dow is barely above where it started last week. In fact, the index is still in negative territory for the month of July, down 116 points.

It's not all bad. It was a good sign to see leadership in financial stocks, especially ahead of key earnings reports from several bank stocks this week. Even though financials were the clear winner Monday, all 30 Dow components finished with gains. We may be stuck in a trading range, but winning sessions like today are certainly welcome, especially with every company participating.

Worth noting are gains in Caterpillar ( CAT), General Electric ( GE), Microsoft ( MSFT) and Pfizer ( PFE), all of which finished up 3.8% or more.

Tuesday will bring the first Dow earnings reports since Alcoa ( AA) started the party last week. Components Johnson & Johnson ( JNJ) and Intel ( INTC) set to report before and after the trading session, respectively.

(At 11:50 a.m. EDT)

Thank you, Ms. Whitney.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average is higher to start what will be a fairly busy earnings week, powered by sharp gains in financial stocks like Bank of America ( BAC), American Express ( AXP), and JPMorgan Chase ( JPM).

The bank stocks followed Goldman Sachs ( GS) higher after Meredith Whitney Advisory Group upgraded the stock to buy with a 12-month price target of $186.

But it's not all about the banks. Caterpillar ( CAT), General Electric ( GE), and Kraft Foods ( KFT) were all trading higher by 2% or more.

All of this means a 125-point rally on the Dow, which is a good sign for the bulls ahead of the first big wave of earnings reports. Six Dow components are set to report this week, with financials set to take center stage. JPMorgan reports Thursday, and Bank of America will headline Friday's slate of reports.

In addition, Intel ( INTC) and Johnson & Johnson ( JNJ) will report Tuesday. IBM ( IBM) is scheduled to release quarterly results Thursday, and GE will report Friday.

Before the July 4th holiday, I pointed out that John Butters, a research analyst with Thomson Reuters, said that the second-quarter earnings growth rate for S&P 500 companies is expected to decline more than 35% from a year ago, with all 10 sectors expected to show year-over-year slides.

Obviously, the S&P 500 covers a broad range of companies, while the Dow has only 30 components. For instance, Alcoa ( AA) is the only Dow member to report so far, while 27 S&P 500 companies have already reported, with another 31 expected this week.

However, the earnings performance of Dow members is forecasted to be much like that of the S&P 500 companies. Alcoa was the only component that analysts expected to post a loss (and the company did, although it was a better-than-expected loss). All other 29 Dow components are expected to notch a profit. However, 24 of those companies are expected to see earnings per share fall from year-ago levels.

Only Boeing ( BA), Hewlett-Packard ( HPQ), IBM and McDonald's ( MCD) are expected to report year-over-year increases in earnings, if the analysts polled by Thomson Reuters are correct. Wal-Mart ( WMT) is expected to match its year-ago earnings of 86 cents a share.

On the other hand, nine companies are expected to see year-ago earnings cut in half or worse, including American Express, JPMorgan, BofA, Caterpillar, GE, Intel, Exxon Mobil ( XOM), Chevron ( CVX) and DuPont ( DD).

For now, though, we'll have our focus squarely on the six Dow members to report this week, with our scorecards in hand.

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