A surprising stock is leading the Dow this year

Far from being a hot tech stock, the best-performing stock in the Dow Jones industrial average this year is a stalwart that action-seeking traders may not think about too much: Boeing.

Year to date, Boeing shares have surged 32.5 percent. Over the past year, the aircraft manufacturer has enjoyed a 56 percent rally, making it tops out of the Dow 30 in that time frame as well. The overall index has risen by 8.3 percent and 17.5 percent in those periods, respectively.

With a 3.9 percent rise in the past week, and 1.1 percent jump on Tuesday alone, Boeing reached an all-time high.

The stock's rally has come as airplane orders and earnings numbers have impressed. The stock has also been helped by market expectations, following Donald Trump's win, that defense spending would rise and that the pace of global growth would increase.

But on the whole, Wall Street analysts are not too optimistic. The median target price on the now-$206 stock is $200, and the average rating is hold.

Canaccord Genuity analyst Ken Herbert, who pairs his hold rating with a $170 price target, argues that just holding on is the right thing to do for this high-flying stock.

"You've still got a dividend that's yielding about 3 percent, it looks like economic improvement coming, you've got defense improving," Herbert said Tuesday on CNBC's "Power Lunch." There are "some concerns longer term about the free cash flow upside. But, there's a nice floor on the stock because of the dividend and the current cash flow."

"Clearly the stocks had a big catch up here in the last few months, especially since the first of the year, but I'm not chasing Boeing at these levels," Herbert added.

The company is set to report earnings before the bell on July 26, and according to portfolio manager Dennis Davitt of Harvest Volatility Management, investors in the stock appear to show an interest in protecting their profits ahead of the news.

"The options on it are very expensive — and they should be expensive, because if you own Boeing, you have money to spend on insurance. So we're seeing a premium in the options going into earnings," Davitt said Tuesday on "Power Lunch."

"The options market is saying it's a great stock, hold onto it, but buy some insurance on it — and a lot of people seem to be doing that," Davitt added.

A worker is pictured in the The 777 Wing Body Join and Final Assembly area is at Boeing's production facility in Everett, Washington, June 1, 2017.
Jason Redmond | Reuters
A worker is pictured in the The 777 Wing Body Join and Final Assembly area is at Boeing's production facility in Everett, Washington, June 1, 2017.

The Dow is somewhat lucky to have had Boeing lead the way. The Dow is a price-weighted index, meaning that a stock's impact on the overall group is proportional to its share price. Boeing came into the year as the fifth-highest-priced stock in the index, meaning it has had a much more profound effect on the Dow than if it would have had the shares simply been trading at a lower price.

Coming in behind Boeing on the Dow leader board this year are McDonald's and Apple, with 27.3 percent and 26.7 percent rallies, respectively. The worst performer is Verizon, which is down 19.7 percent.


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Michael Santoli

Michael Santoli joined CNBC in October 2015 as a Senior Markets Commentator, based at the network's Global Headquarters in Englewood Cliffs, N.J.  Santoli brings his extensive markets expertise to CNBC's Business Day programming, with a regular appearance on CNBC's Closing Bell (M-F, 3PM-5PM ET). In addition, he contributes to CNBC and CNBC PRO, writing regular articles and creating original digital videos.

Previously, Santoli was a Senior Columnist at Yahoo Finance, where he wrote analysis and commentary on the stock market, corporate news and the economy. He also appeared on Yahoo Finance video programs, where he offered insights on the most important business stories of the day, and was a regular contributor to CNBC and other networks.

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