With the opening ceremonies for the 2012 Olympic Games tonight, billions of people will spend the next two weeks thinking from a global perspective. That's a viewpoint that investors already know quite well, with Europe's ongoing debt crisis and threats of economic slowdowns elsewhere around the world. But for today, the stock market seems squarely focused on domestic concerns, with the first read on second-quarter U.S. GDP coming in with growth of just 1.5%. That may sound like bad news, but it has once again raised hopes that the Federal Reserve will take measures to speed up the pace of recovery, and that sent the Dow Jones Industrials (INDEX: ^DJI ) up more than 100 points just after 11:00 a.m. EDT, adding to its big gains yesterday.
Merck (NYSE: MRK ) was the big Dow winner this morning, rising more than 3% as the company announced second-quarter earnings that were ahead of analyst expectations. Although net income fell from year-ago levels, revenue rose 1.3%, and the pharma giant's diabetes drugs helped pick up the slack. Still, the company faces a big hit when its asthma drug Singulair loses patent protection later this year.
ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM ) , on the other hand, dropped about a third of a percent. Rival Chevron (NYSE: CVX ) announced earnings that beat expectations, with weakness in oil and natural gas prices offset by big margins from the company's refining business. With natural gas finally rebounding, though, and oil back above $90 per barrel, Exxon's prospects look like they should be better this quarter if those trends continue.
Finally, McDonald's (NYSE: MCD ) was up slightly. As a major sponsor of the Olympics, McDonald's hopes that extra exposure will help boost its international presence. Yet given the amount the company already spends on marketing, it's worth wondering just how much of an extra boost the fast-food behemoth gets for its sponsorship dollars. Nevertheless, viewers can expect to see a lot of McDonald's in the coming weeks.
Let the games begin!
The Olympics are a fascinating spectacle as we watch athletes from around the world give it their all. Sometimes, though, it seems like it takes an Olympian effort just to find the best investments. To get some promising stock names that could put you in medal contention, take a look at The Motley Fool's latest special report, where you'll find three stocks that combine growth and strong dividends in a single package.