UnitedHealth Group Inc. (UNH), Cisco Systems, Inc. (CSCO), American Express Company (AXP): Three Stocks Leading the Dow’s Triple-Digit Charge

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The Dow Jones Industrial Average is making big gains following the release of better-than-expected consumer confidence numbers, up 0.91% to 15,443 points as of 1:25 p.m. EDT. The S&P 500 is up 0.85% to 1,664.

There were two U.S. economic releases today.

Report Period Result Previous
Case-Shiller National home price index March 1.4% 0.3%
Consumer Confidence Index May 76.2 69

Source: MarketWatch U.S. Economic Calendar.

The key report here is the Consumer Confidence Index; rising home prices in March are no surprise. The Conference Board reported that consumer confidence rose to 76.2, its highest level in nearly five years. Analysts were expecting a rise to just 72.3. Consumer confidence had been weighed down by the fiscal cliff, the increase in the payroll tax, and sequestration. Confidence is rising as the economy powers through the obstacles and the stock market and home prices rise.

The Case-Shiller composite 20-home price index rose 1.4% in March for an annual rise of 10.9%. The Case-Shiller national home-price index was also up big, having risen 10.2% over the past 12 months. The rise in home prices is the fastest since mid-2006.

The rise in home prices is being spurred on by low housing inventory levels and low interest rates. Nationally, home prices are now back to 2003 levels.

Today’s Dow leader

Today’s Dow leader is (NYSE:UNH), up 2.1% today and up almost 17% for the year as it looks to be a likely beneficiary of ObamaCare. UnitedHealth Group Inc. (NYSE:UNH) is now catching the eye of dividend investors, with a sky-high 95% annual dividend growth rate over the past three years. Dividend investors also like that the health care giant only pays out roughly 20% of its earnings, meaning that the dividend has room to grow.

Second for the Dow today is Cisco Systems, Inc. (NASDAQ:CSCO), up 2%. Cisco Systems, Inc. (NASDAQ:CSCO) was last week’s third-worst-performing Dow stock, losing 2.9% in reaction to the 15% it gained the previous week when it reported better-than-expected first-quarter earnings. While there’s no news today to explain the stock’s gains, there’s a lot to like about the stock, including a low valuation, a 2.9% dividend, and more than $6 per share of net cash.

Once a highflying tech darling, Cisco Systems, Inc. (NASDAQ:CSCO) is now on the radar of value-oriented dividend-lovers. Get the lowdown on the routing juggernaut in The Motley Fool’s premium report. Click here now to get started.

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