Sunday, October 20, 2013

Markets Rally on Hope of Continued Fed Stimulus

The Federal Reserve is schedule to meet on Wednesday and Thursday, and investors are clearly betting that the central bank will continue its bond-buying program and stimulate the economy. The markets are rallying today, and as of 1 p.m. EDT the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) is up 160 points, or 1.06%, while the S&P 500 has risen 0.98% and the Nasdaq is up 1.19%. Only a few of the Dow's 30 components are missing out on the party. Let's see why.

A few Dow laggers
Shares of Home Depot (NYSE: HD  ) are flat following the announcement that its biggest competitor, Lowe's, is buying most of the bankrupt Orchard Supply Hardware Stores' assets for $205 million. The Orchard Supply Company is a spinoff of Sears Holdings. The move may help Lowe's gain some market share from Home Depot, but because Orchard looks as if it will collapse, that just means Home Depot ultimately has one less competitor. All in all, investors shouldn't be worried about this move by Lowe's.

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Shares of Verizon (NYSE: VZ  ) are slightly lower, down 0.24% on news that the company may move into the Canadian wireless market. The Canadian government is hoping that a fourth mobile player in the country will help keep prices low and offer citizens a wider range of choices. One report indicates that Verizon is looking at Wind Mobile, a small Canadian wireless company. There have been a number of new entrants into the Canadian market, but none have gone to a national level or been able to threaten the current top three providers.  

Lastly, Pfizer (NYSE: PFE  ) is the biggest loser on the Dow today, though it has lost just 0.4%, while Merck (NYSE: MRK  ) is a hair below breakeven. Both pharmaceutical companies have performed alongside the market this year: Merck is up 16.56% year to date, and Pfizer has climbed 15.59%. But it hasn't been easy going. Both have seen massive losses in revenue and profit as patents have expired and generic companies have moved into the markets. Both have had some setbacks on developing drugs, though they've seen some promising signs from the research departments. But as my Foolish colleague Sean Williams noted earlier, Merck has a large short interest that seems to have grown over the past few weeks. Shareholders shouldn't worry about today's drops, as they come with very little news, but they need to focus on the long-term pipeline each company is developing and how the patent cliff will continue to effect each company.

This titan of the pharmaceutical industry stumbled into 2013 and continues to battle patent expirations and pipeline problems. Is Merck still a solid dividend play, or should investors be looking elsewhere? In a new premium research report on Merck, the Fool tackles all of the company's moving parts, its major market opportunities, and reasons both to buy and to sell. To find out more, click here to claim your copy today.

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