NEW YORK, NY--(Marketwire - Feb 4, 2013) - A string of positive economic data helped propel the Dow Jones industrial average and the S&P 500 Index to five-year highs. On January 25th, the S&P 500 Index closed above the 1,500 mark for the first time since 2007. "The bottom line is that corporate America is doing exceptionally well," said JPMorgan global market strategist, Joe Tanious. Research Driven Investing examines investing opportunities in the S&P 500 Index and provides equity research on Altria Group, Inc. (NYSE: MO) and Philip Morris International Inc. (NYSE: PM).
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A steadily improving U.S. housing market combined with a 5-year low in jobless claims has helped boost investor optimism heading into 2013. Earlier this month the Labor Department reported initial claims for unemployment benefits declined 37,000 to a seasonally adjusted total of 335,000, which was the largest weekly drop in nearly 2 years. Strong earnings from major companies such as Alcoa, General Electric and Proctor & Gamble have also contributed to the markets recent surge. Collectively, companies in the S&P 500 Index are projected to report a 3.8% earnings growth in the fourth quarter, according to S&P's Capital IQ.
"The economy is entering the year maybe not with a running start, but certainly a head start," Jack Ablin, BMO Private Bank's chief investment officer, said in a recent telephone interview, according to Bloomberg. "It helps build a nice story for 2013."
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Altria reported fourth-quarter EPS surged 34.1 percent year-over-year to $0.55 per share. The company's strong results were driven by strong sales of Marlboro cigarettes. During the fourth quarter Marlboro increased its market share of U.S. smokers to 42.6 percent, compared to 41.6 percent in the year ago quarter.
Philip Morris International is the leading international tobacco company, with seven of the world's top 15 international brands, including Marlboro, the number one cigarette brand worldwide. The company is scheduled to release its fourth quarter and full year 2012 results on Thursday February 7th.
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