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Ordinarily, a 67-point advance for the Dow Jones Industrials (INDEX: ^DJI ) would be an unqualified cause for celebration. But it's hard to get too excited about a rebound that recovers barely a quarter of what the average lost in yesterday's plunge. Nevertheless, the stock market seemed satisfied that even if bad news is hitting the market, the news isn't as bad as it could be, and that helped bring gains for stocks overall. Commodities also bounced somewhat, with oil jumping about $1.75 per barrel, though still finishing just shy of the $80 mark. Gold also rose slightly.
Helping to pull up the Dow was Merck (NYSE: MRK ) , which rose almost 2% to set a two-year high today. Despite reports yesterday that the drug company had to recall tens of thousands of doses of a vaccine, Merck got a positive recommendation from Credit Suisse, which added the stock to its U.S. focus list. Analyst upgrades often bring short-term moves, but more important is whether the company can deliver on hopes that its pipeline prospects are brighter than many have feared.
Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) also posted gains of nearly 2%. With the company having announced its Surface tablet earlier this week, another big question facing Microsoft is whether it will produce its own smartphones for its Windows Phone 8 mobile operating system. The problem facing the company, though, is that smartphone makers -- including partner Nokia (NYSE: NOK ) -- are stuck trying to sell phones now that won't be able to get upgraded to the new operating system when it comes out later this year. Nevertheless, Microsoft's cheap earnings multiple and big cash war-chest make it a compelling value.
Finally, Bank of America (NYSE: BAC ) gained about 1.5%. It's resoundingly clear that investors were already prepared for a downgrade of the bank's bond rating and, given its ongoing attempt to sell off non-core assets and take other measures to raise capital, B of A appears to be doing everything it can to make its weakening creditworthiness less of an issue going forward.
What will next week bring?
After the weekend, will stocks keep rising or renew their decline? The best answer is not to ask the question. Long-term investors should be satisfied to know that they own great stocks for the long haul, including some great prospects within the Dow. Read all about our favorites in the Motley Fool's brand-new special report, "The 3 Dow Stocks Dividend Investors Need," which focuses on three dividend payers that have plenty of growth potential, as well. Grab your fr ee copy today by clicking here.