UnitedHealth's Big Day Energizes the Dow

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You want gains? The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) has gains -- enough to put a smile on many a blue-chip investor's face this Tuesday.

The index has hit a new intraday record high in its latest surge, and as of 2:15 p.m. EDT the Dow has advanced 95 points, or 0.6%. Health care stocks are leading the way, with most of the index in the green despite one computer maker's huge losses. Who's on the move? Let's get caught up on the stocks you need to know about.

A day of healthy gains for UnitedHealth
Few people are having a better Tuesday than UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH  ) investors. The big insurer has pulled down gains of 4.9% after the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced on Monday a reimbursement rate hike of 3.3% for Medicare Advantage payments to insurers in 2014. Previously, the program had been planned to slash government reimbursement to insurers by 2.2%. The rate increase is a major win for the entire insurance industry.

With UnitedHealth having increased its Medicare membership last year, the announcement is a big long-term for the company and its stock despite the uncertainty still surrounding the launch of Obamacare.

The rest of the health care sector is not quite hitting that high note, but big pharma's Pfizer (NYSE: PFE  ) and Merck (NYSE: MRK  ) still rank among the top of the Dow as this sector rolls higher. Shares of the companies have climbed more than 1% each so far. Even though both of them -- Merck in particular -- are still dealing with revenue declines related to patent expirations of top-selling drugs, both stocks have rewarded shareholders substantially so far this year.

Merck recently locked horns with Indian pharmaceutical firm Glenmark Pharmaceuticals in a legal battle over patent infringement. Merck's Indian division, MSD, accused Glenmark of violating its Indian patent of blockbuster diabetes drugs Januvia and Janumet. Glenmark admitted to launching a generic version of the drug, which could hit Merck's revenue growth in the second-largest nation in the world. Around 65 million Indians suffer from type 2 diabetes, making for a tempting market for Merck to tap into as it looks to grow in emerging economies.

On the other side of the Dow, even as the index surges, beleaguered tech stock Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ  ) has found a way to frustrate investors. The stock has exploded this year, pulling in gains of more than 55% after last year's calamitous fall, but today's downgrade from Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS  ) won't help it sustain that momentum.

Goldman downgraded HP from "neutral" to "sell" and lowered its projections of the company's revenue and EPS over the next few years. Additionally, the bank mentioned that HP's struggling hardware segments will likely continue to flounder. The fall of the PC market certainly hasn't helped HP's fate, and while investors have seen plenty of green since the start of 2013, the company still faces a long road back to respectability. Even the most optimistic believer in HP should expect plenty of volatility ahead for this polarizing pick.

Is opportunity awaiting today's big winner?
When President Obama was -, shares of UnitedHealth and other health insurers fell immediately. Is Obamacare a death knell for health insurers, or is the market missing out on some of the opportunities the law presents? In this brand-new premium report on UnitedHealth, The Motley Fool takes a long-term view, honing in on prospects for UnitedHealth in a post-Obamacare world. So don't miss out -- simply click here now to claim your copy today.

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Dan Carroll

Dan began writing for the Motley Fool in 2012. He is a health care specialist who also follows the defense industry along with tracking the broader U.S. and international markets.

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Related Tickers

5/24/2016 4:32 PM
^DJI $17706.05 Up +213.12 +1.22%
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UnitedHealth Group CAPS Rating: ****
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