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After a solid performance in January, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI ) , and the other major indexes, started February off with a bang. The Dow closed higher by 149 points, or 1.08%. The S&P 500 (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC ) closed up 15.06 points, or 1.01%, while the Nasdaq (NASDAQINDEX: ^IXIC ) gained 36.97 points, or 1.18%. Since the Dow gained 149, it now sits above 14,000 by nine points, and is only 155 points below its all-time high. The markets, in general, have been moving higher as a result of a number of factors: Washington's temporary fiscal cliff deal, overall positive economic data points, and a fairly strong earnings season thus far.
Year to date, the Dow is now up 6.91%, after gaining 0.82% this week. The S&P 500 is up 6.1% in 2013, and the indexes price-to-earnings ratio is beginning to creep higher, at 17.21, while the mean is 15.49. Some market participants believe a market correction is due, and while the P/E ratio is higher than average, I don't believe investors should run for the hills quite yet.
As is expected on a day when the Dow gains more than 100 points, very few of its 30 components ended the day in the red -- actually only two today.
Shares of Merck (NYSE: MRK ) lost 3.28% of their value today, after the company announced quarterly earnings this morning. Although profit fell 7%, largely due to strong competition from the generic drug companies, the company still beat analyst's estimates. One reason for the drop was the company's outlook for 2013, which it said will likely see revenue in line with that of 2012. Also, management's decision to postpone filing for the FDA's approval on an osteoporosis drug, which many believe will become a huge success for Merck, added downward pressure. The drug will not be presented to the Food & Drug Administration until 2014.
While shares of Merck began and ended the day in the red, Hewlett-Packard's (NYSE: HPQ ) stock spent nearly all but the last thirty minutes in the green. When the closing bell rang, shares were down 0.3%. The company announced this morning that it would be closing a site in Ruesselsheim, Germany, and cutting roughly 850 jobs. Hewlett-Packard said the site will be closed by the end of October and, at this time, management does not believe any other locations in Germany will be affected. Management made the decision as part of Hewlett-Packards restructuring of its business.
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.