Dow's Great Week Ends on a Good Note

With the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI  ) gaining 497 points, or 3.84%, during the week, the index's 43-point jump today may not seem like a big deal, but it is. After the market rallied more than 300 points on Wednesday after a deal was reached to avert some of the U.S.'s fiscal problems -- and with earnings season about to kick into full swing when Alcoa announces its results on Tuesday -- a move higher again today shows that investors are optimistic and the big rally this week may be for real.

If the market is granted good news in the earnings reports of the first few big companies reporting next week, we could see the Dow break the 14,000 mark.

Of the Dow's 30 components, only six of them ended the trading day in the red. This afternoon, I explained why the three biggest Dow losers at the time were Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ  ) , Intel (Nasdaq: INTC  ) , and Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) . To read about what negative news helped push these companies lower, click here. Or stick around to learn about the outside forces affecting the stock prices of Home Depot (NYSE: HD  ) , IBM  (NYSE: IBM  ) , and Merck (NYSE: MRK  ) .

So what happened?
Shares of Home Depot closed down 0.19% today after an announcement that a smaller California based hardware chain is suing the company. Orchard Supply Hardware is claiming that Home Depot is attempting to push the smaller hardware retailers out of business and has two power tool suppliers helping. Orchard claims that Makita and Milwaukee Electric Tool have denied giving Orchard special pricing deals, which Home Depot has been granted. A Home Depot spokesman has told reporters that the company is completely committed to fair competition.  

IBM's shares dropped by 0.66% today. Late this afternoon, we learned that Mike Daniels, a senior vice president, will be retiring on March 31. Daniels ran the unit that accounted for nearly 60% of IBM's revenue, and some considered him a potential candidate for CEO prior to Ginni Rometty taking the job last year. The company will not replace Daniels, but will instead split his responsibilities with two other senior vice presidents.

Lastly, shares of Merck dropped 0.85% today after rising by 2.39% yesterday. The drop likely is just a temporary pullback after the big move yesterday, which was precipitated by the company's announcement that it had resubmitted an application to the FDA for a new cholesterol-fighting drug.

More Foolish insight

For nearly 100 years, Merck's cutting-edge research has led to a number of medical breakthroughs. Today, however, this pharma stalwart is staring down a steep patent cliff and facing generic competition for its top-selling drug. Will Merck crumble under its own weight, or will it continue to pay dividends to investors for another century? To find out if this pharma giant has the stamina to keep its Bunsen burners alight, grab your copy of our brand-new premium research report today. Our senior biotech analyst Brian Orelli, Ph.D., walks you through both the opportunities and threats facing Merck, and the report comes with a full 12 months of updates. Claim your copy now by clicking here.


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