With a break from the onslaught of U.S. economic data and policy that has dominated the stock market's movements over the past week, investors seem to be turning their attention once more to global concerns. With slowing growth hitting China, higher bond rates in Spain, and soaring unemployment in Greece, it's easy to think that big problems affecting the U.S. are inevitable. By 10:45 a.m. EDT, the Dow Jones Industrials (INDEX: ^DJI ) were down almost 110 points, and the broader market was down even more on a percentage basis.
But a few Dow stocks had some very good news for investors and saw their shares rise as a result. Merck (NYSE: MRK ) soared more than 4% after it announced that it would end a phase 3 study of its odanacatib osteoporosis drug early because it was so effective in the trial. With blockbuster potential, the drug could challenge Amgen's (Nasdaq: AMGN ) Prolia and help Merck replace lost revenue from treatments going off-patent, especially its asthma drug Singulair.
Meanwhile, Procter & Gamble (NYSE: PG ) rose more than 3%. Pershing Square Capital Management, a hedge fund run by renowned investor Bill Ackman, has reportedly opened a position in P&G. The Federal Trade Commission approved a deal between Pershing and P&G, although it didn't specify exactly what the deal was. The shares aren't exactly a bargain at 16 times forward earnings estimates, but in a slow economy, P&G's value as a defensive play goes up.
Finally, Chevron (NYSE: CVX ) rose about 0.6% despite overall weakness in energy, with oil prices back below the $85-per-barrel level. JPMorgan upgraded Chevron to neutral from underweight, pointing to its Australian liquid natural gas projects as well as its broad-based oil exposure as positives. It will be increasingly important for individual energy companies to do their best to distinguish themselves from the crowd, and Chevron is apparently succeeding in doing that.
More downside to come?
It's too early to tell whether today's move is just a one-day event or a sign of more to come. Rather than trying to guess, it makes more sense to focus on stocks that have the best prospects no matter what the market does. You'll find three of them in our latest special report: "The 3 Dow Stocks Dividend Investors Need." The report is absolutely free, so just click here and get your copy today.