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Big Oil's Fall Holds Back a Flat Dow's Friday

It's been a great ride to new record highs for the markets, but stocks had to catch a breather eventually. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) has done just that today -- it's danced in negative to flat territory, and as of 2:15 p.m. EDT, the index is down just 5 points. Stocks are fairly evenly split between risers and laggards, with a pair of losers in the energy sector weighing down the index. As we finish up a slow Friday for investors everywhere, let's catch up on the movers you need to know.

Energy giants in the red
Exxon-Mobil's (NYSE: XOM  )  firmly in the red today, down 1.2% to rank among the Dow's biggest laggards. This comes despite Exxon's announced plans today to open a $10 billion liquefied natural gas plant on the Gulf Coast in Texas. The agreement could see the facility produce more than 15 million metric tons of LNG annually as Exxon and other natural gas producers look to evade low domestic prices by capitalizing on exports.

Big oil rival Chevron (NYSE: CVX  ) isn't having much of a day to remember, either, as shares have fallen 0.9% so far. The company did post good news today, however: Chevron won a lawsuit against the U.S. over a dispute surrounding its oil fields near Bakersfield, California. The companies have battled for years over the split between Chevron's and the Department of Energy's stakes in the fields. While Chevron's still disputing the DoE's share, the U.S. will have to reimburse the company for 42% of its legal fees for a two-year period.

Outside of the energy sector, Caterpillar (NYSE: CAT  ) shares are performing even worse today. The industrial giant's stock has fallen 1.9% today to lead all Dow laggards lower. The company cut off talks with the United Steelworkers union in Milwaukee today as a labor dispute continues to rage at its mining equipment plant. The mining industry's downturn, sparked by China's slowdown and other leading economies slumping, has forced Caterpillar to lay off hundreds of mining equipment workers already. Caterpillar's Milwaukee plant remains open as this labor dispute continues, but until the global economy picks up, the company's mining business will continue to struggle.

On a bright note for the Dow, shares of Merck (NYSE: MRK  ) have traded higher today, advancing 0.9% so far. The company has offered up its HPV vaccine Gardasil at a 95% discount to impoverished nations, part of a deal with the GAVI Alliance partnership to boost immunization rates in developing populations. Merck's done well with Gardasil commercially as well, however; the vaccine has been one of the company's best-sellers even as the firm struggles with patent expirations of other blockbuster drugs. Last year, Gardasil posted more than $1.6 billion in sales, a year-over-year gain of more than 34%.

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 Motley Fool tackles all of the company's moving parts, its major market opportunities, and reasons to both buy and sell. To find out more click here to claim your copy today.

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Related Tickers

9/29/2016 4:35 PM
^DJI $18143.45 Down -195.79 -1.07%
CAT $87.47 Up +0.88 +1.02%
Caterpillar CAPS Rating: ***
CVX $101.27 Down -0.88 -0.86%
Chevron CAPS Rating: ****
MRK $61.91 Down -1.39 -2.20%
Merck and Co. CAPS Rating: ****
XOM $86.46 Down -0.44 -0.51%
ExxonMobil CAPS Rating: ****