The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) is pulling back once again after yesterday's surge, falling just below the 14,000 mark it has flirted with over the past few weeks. As of 2:15 p.m. EST, the Dow has lost 45 points, or 0.32%, after hitting a five-year high yesterday. There isn't much activity among the Dow's members, and stocks are fairly evenly split between risers and laggards. However, a big sale has catapulted one conglomerated giant to the lead.
GE booms on NBC sale
General Electric (NYSE:GE) won't let a slow market day stop its gains. Shares of the conglomerate are up 3.2% to lead the Dow after it sold its remaining stake in NBCUniversal to Comcast yesterday, a move that earned it $16.7 billion. GE had sold 51% of NBC Universal to Comcast in 2011, and this move completely rids GE of the network. It's one more step along GE's plan to rise from the recession, and the company plans to return about $18 billion to investors this year.
GE's the top stock on the Dow today, but others have managed to record small gains as well. Proctor & Gamble (NYSE:PG) has seen shares rise 0.6% so far. While there's little news out on the company, shares in the consumer goods giant have soared to start 2013. The stock has risen 9.5% over that time period, and as the economy continues to climb back from the recession, more money in consumers' pockets can only help P&G rise further.
Meanwhile, McDonald's (NYSE:MCD) leads the Dow lower, with shares falling 1.3%. According to a report released today from AlixPartners, in 2013 diners plan to eat out less, spend less money on meals, and focus more on food quality. That's a bad sign for McDonald's, which recorded its first sales decline in almost 10 years back in November and could face pressure to continue growing. While the report expected traffic to restaurants to rise about 3% in the year, McDonald's will need to continue battling for customers in its competitive industry.
Finally, big pharma Merck (NYSE:MRK) has seen shares drop 0.9% courtesy of a Venezuelan currency devaluation, which has caused the company to lower its first-quarter profit expectations by $0.05 to a range of $0.76 to $0.78 per share. That's $0.08 to $0.10 less than analysts had projected, although according to Merck, the Venezuelan move won't affect its full-year earnings.
Fool contributor Dan Carroll has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends McDonald's and Procter & Gamble. The Motley Fool owns shares of General Electric Company and McDonald's. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.