As investors continue to await the Federal Reserve's report tomorrow, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI) ended an up-and-down day nearly unchanged, falling 1 point, or 0.01%. The blue chips opened 0.5% higher but fell gradually for most of the session, as investors reacted to President Obama's "grand bargain" to create middle-class jobs. The president said he would offer to cut the corporate tax rate from 35% to 28% in exchange for closing corporate loopholes and creating middle-class jobs, but Republicans seemed unimpressed with the proposal, as a spokesman for John Boehner called it "the opposite of a concession."
Elsewhere in economic news, the Conference Board's July consumer confidence index fell to 80.3 from 82.1 in June, and below estimates of 81.6. A decline in economic and job expectations was the primary cause for the drop, but the consumer reading is still close to a six-year high. Also, the Case-Shiller Index climbed 12.2%, better than projections at 10.5%, but the May data may be too late to warrant a market reaction, as mortgage rates have increased significantly since then.
On the Dow today, the blue chips' two drugmakers posted earnings reports. First, Merck (NYSE: MRK) shares finished down 0.6%, as the Singulair-maker continued to see a drop in revenue because of patent expirations and generic competition. Sales fell 11% to $11.01 billion, which missed analyst estimates of $11.24 billion, but adjusted earnings per share of $0.84 managed to beat the consensus view at $0.82. Much of the revenue decline was due to an 80% fall in asthma-drug Singulair to $281 million as it came off patent last August. Merck held its EPS forecast in place but lowered its revenue projection, saying it expects a decline of 5% to 6% for the full year.
Pfizer (NYSE: PFE), meanwhile, fared better, ending up 0.4%, though its results were similar to Merck's. Sales dropped 7% to $12.97 billion, worse than estimates of $13.21 billion. Adjusted earnings per share were also down 5% to $0.56, but that beat estimates by a penny. The pharmaceutical giant has struggled to replace the massive sales lost from its cholesterol drug Lipitor, which recently went off patent. Continuing its transformation that has seen it sell off non-core divisions, including most recently Zoetis, an animal-drug maker, Pfizer is reorganizing into three divisions: One will focus on drugs that have lost patent protection, another on drugs with patents still in effect, and the third on other types of medicines.
Finally, shares of Verizon (NYSE: VZ) and AT&T (NYSE: T) finished down 2.1% and, 1.3%, respectively as rival Sprint jumped 7.3% after reporting earnings. Sprint's report was nothing to crow about, as it lost more than 1 million contract customers in the quarter, worse than expected, and its quarterly per-share loss grew to $0.53 against estimates of a $0.31 loss. Still, revenue topped expectations and average revenue per user improved by more than 1%. Clearly, the report wasn't enough to jar Wall Street's blinding optimism for Sprint, with Softbank now behind it, as shares have soared this year.
Looking for some more info on the battle between the telecoms? Truth be told, one company sits at the crossroads of smartphone technology as we know it. It's not your typical household name, either. In fact, you've probably never even heard of it. But it stands to reap massive profits no matter who ultimately wins the smartphone war. To find out what it is, click here to access the "One Stock You Must Buy Before the iPhone-Android War Escalates Any Further."