The U.S. Beats, and So Does Merck

Yesterday, I suggested in this column that disappointing results from Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) and Amazon were likely to weigh on sentiment today, but that doesn't appear to be the case this morning, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI  ) and the broader S&P 500 (INDEX: ^GSPC  ) both down just 0.1% as of 10:10 a.m. EDT.

The macro view
It's a beat for the U.S. economy! The U.S. Department of Commerce released GDP figures this morning, and it turns out the economy grew at a 2% annualized rate in the third quarter, which compares favorably with economists' consensus growth estimate of 1.8%. Consumers did their part, accounting for the bulk of the increase in GDP: Personal-consumption expenditures rose 2%, while spending on long-lasting goods increased by a vigorous 8.5%. Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett nailed it on Wednesday when he told CNBC that "we're still inching ahead, but we're inching."

The micro view
The sole Dow component reporting today is pharmaceutical Merck (NYSE: MRK  ) , which released results this morning. Merck earned $0.95 per share (ex-items) in the third quarter, beating the consensus estimate of $0.92, while revenue was in line with expectations. However, this is not the kind of beat that gets investors excited, as one-time tax gains contributed significantly to the outperformance. Significantly, however, Merck narrowed its full-year forecast to a range of $3.78 to 3.82 per share, where many companies have been lowering theirs.

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