Why the Dow's Barely Budging This Morning

Once again, the U.S. stock market is mostly shrugging off negative news from Europe. Today, the Spanish economy formally entered into recession, with its second-straight quarterly decline in GDP as yet another symbol of Europe's ongoing struggles. In addition, the Commerce Department said that consumer income rose 0.4% last month, although growth in consumer spending slowed to 0.3% as gas prices stopped rising. But after a modest decline near the open, the Dow Jones Industrials (INDEX: ^DJI  ) rebounded almost to unchanged before giving ground again, with the average down 23 points to 13,206 just before 10:45 a.m. EDT.

Among Dow Stocks, Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) was up 0.1% after announcing a deal to help Barnes & Noble (NYSE: BKS  ) become a player in the e-book industry. Microsoft will pay $300 million for a 17.6% stake in a new subsidiary that will include B&N's e-book business as well as its college textbook segment. Whether the move will help B&N compete better against Amazon.com remains to be seen, but it's an interesting move by Microsoft to tie itself in part to B&N's Nook e-reader and tablet.

Merck (NYSE: MRK  ) rose more than 2% after a court ruling that confirmed the drugmaker's patents on Zetia and Vytorin. Generic-drug maker Mylan had sought to produce a copy of the drugs prior to their expiration in 2017. With Merck already facing patent-cliff challenges, the ruling gives it some room to breathe on drugs that the company is counting on to provide strong revenue for years to come.

Finally, Bank of America (NYSE: BAC  ) was the biggest decliner in the Dow, dropping nearly 2%. A report in The Wall Street Journal noted that although B of A has been reducing its loan volume on mortgages, it's making the most of a favorable pricing environment for mortgage-loan refinancing by staying firm on pricing. That could change in a hurry if mortgage rates start to rise, but for now, B of A and other banks are getting a nice boost even in a weak housing market.

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Fool contributor Dan Caplinger doesn't own shares of the companies mentioned. You can follow him on Twitter here. The Motley Fool owns shares of Bank of America, Microsoft, and Amazon.com. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Amazon.com and Microsoft, as well as writing puts on Barnes & Noble and creating a bull call spread position in Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Fool has a disclosure policy.


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