Dow Keeps It a Perfect March

Well, the streak almost came to an end, but the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) eked out another win today, its eighth in a row. On a day when both the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq fell about 0.3%, the blue chips finished up 3 points or 0.02%.

With no major economic reports out today, investors seemed relatively agnostic, and it looks as if the rally we've seen over the past two weeks is finally running its course. Tomorrow's retail sales report could help determine whether the Dow can go even higher in the short term.

Merck (NYSE: MRK  ) was the big winner on the Dow today, jumping 3.2%, after an independent safety panel cleared the way for it to continue trials of its cholesterol drug Vytorin. Concerns about Vytorin had suppressed Merck's share price in the past, and a negative ruling by the board would have been devastating. Vytorin and Zetia, another cholesterol, make up to 10% of the drug giant's revenue.

Boeing (NYSE: BA  ) shares jumped to a five-year high today, climbing 1.5% after winning a $15 billion contract from Ryanair. The discount airline and a favorite of European bargain-seekers put in order for 170 737 jets -- the most common jet in the world, but one that's being phased in favor of a higher-tech version. That value constitutes 18% of Boeing's total 2012 revenue. At a time when the aircraft maker is struggling to fix the battery-fire problem with its 787 Dreamliners, the order is a reminder that Boeing is strong enough to overcome what should be a temporary hiccup.

Outside the Dow, J.C. Penney (NYSE: JCP  ) shares were up 4% on rumors that CEO Ron Johnson will be resigning. The department-store chain denied the reports, but the market's reaction goes to show how much things have changed for Johnson, who was hailed as the company's savior when he arrived on the job a little more than a year ago. Since then, the stock has dropped by more than 50%, and the company has been bleeding revenue. In the wake of today's murmurs, some analysts stood by Johnson, saying that little would change with his ouster, and that the company's rebranding initiative is still being rolled out.

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