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Big Pharma's Fall Ails the Dow

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The day started off badly for the markets, but the major indexes have managed to recover their losses. After falling almost 80 points at one point this morning, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) has fought back to around breakeven late in trading. Earnings have taken a toll on the Dow today, with one major pharmaceutical player weighing on the index, but stocks on the blue-chip index are still evenly split between risers and losers. Let's catch up on the biggest movers.

Earnings season strikes again
Earnings season has come and gone for most of the Dow's companies, but Pfizer (NYSE: PFE  ) passed through the gauntlet today. The company's report was less than stellar, and shares have fallen 3.6% as a result. Pfizer grew earnings at a steady clip but still fell a penny short of analyst expectations.

Weak demand for the firm's Prevnar-13 vaccine and the continued fallout of Lipitor's patent expiration took the company's sales down by 9% year over year. While Pfizer has done well since Lipitor fell off patent last year, it's clear the company has work to do to escape the shadow of the patent cliff.

Pfizer's gloom has pulled down shares of fellow big pharma player Merck (NYSE: MRK  ) , whose stock has fallen 1.1% on the day. Merck doesn't report earnings until tomorrow, but like Pfizer, the company faces the specter of falling sales due to patent expirations. It pins its hopes on the blockbuster drugs of tomorrow, such as its massively successful diabetes treatment Januvia. Analysts expect earnings and revenue to both fall, so investors shouldn't get their hopes up too much, even though the stock has performed strongly in 2013.

Outside of pharmaceuticals, tech stocks are continuing their rise from yesterday to power the Dow's modest gains. IBM (NYSE: IBM  ) has pulled in gains of 1.3% to rank among the top Dow leaders after the company announced it would raise its dividend by 12%. IBM leadership also green-lighted a $5 billion stock buyback today, and investors have been eager to buy stock to take advantage of these opportunities. It's the right time for IBM to launch the buyback: After a poor earnings season, the company's stock has fallen more than 6% this month.

Verizon (NYSE: VZ  ) shares have also done well today, rising 1%. The company announced the launch of its Verizon Cloud app to Android devices and, soon, to iOS. The Verizon Cloud acts as a cloud-based data-backup service in the same vein as Dropbox, allowing users to restore lost content easily and prevent the loss of data. While some such apps already exist around the mobile world, Verizon's betting its app will appeal to users needing to move content around devices.

Can Merck beat the patent cliff?
This titan of the pharmaceutical industry stumbled into 2013 and continues to battle patent expirations and pipeline problems. Is Merck still a solid dividend play, or should investors be looking elsewhere? In a new premium research report on Merck, the Fool tackles all of the company's moving parts, its major market opportunities, and reasons both to buy and to sell. To find out more, click here to claim your copy today.

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