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Despite the ongoing Syrian conflict and a large jump in the trade deficit from $34.5 billion in June to $39.1 billion in July, the markets are moving higher today, helped by last week's 1.3% rise in mortgage applications as reported by the Mortgage Bankers Association. As of 12:45 p.m. EDT the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI ) is up 113 points, or 0.77%, while the S&P 500 has risen 0.89% and the Nasdaq is higher by 0.97%.
Within the Dow, only a handful of losers can be found as yesterday's top laggard again drags on the index.
Shares of Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT ) are adding to the 4.6% loss they suffered yesterday after the company announced that it will buy Nokia's handset business, as well as the rights to its patents for the next 10 years, for more than $7 billion. While yesterday's decline proved that investors weren't thrilled with the acquisition, today one analyst pronounced his distaste for the move as well by downgrading the stock from "overweight" to "equal weight." Keith Weiss from Morgan Stanley believes that the company has a long road to recovery and that shareholders may not give Mr. Softy the time it will take to fully recognize the value of this deal, thus causing shares to stagnate for some time. Weiss also says the Nokia acquisition may limit a future CEO's ability to enact a strategic change in the near term, as the chief exec will have to spend a good deal of his or her time bringing the two companies together. Microsoft has lost 2% today.
Another Dow loser today is Procter & Gamble (NYSE: PG ) , off by a modest 0.2% after the company announced a cheaper version of its popular Tide detergent. As competition from other brands and lower-priced detergents move in on Tide's position, Procter & Gamble wants to add a lower-priced item that still carries a strong brand name. But this could ultimately hurt Tides brand, lower the company's margins on Tide products, or simply cost the company and shareholders money if the experiment doesn't work out. The product being marketed as "Tide Simply Clean" didn't even receive a ringing endorsement by Procter & Gamble's own CEO, A.G. Lafley, who said the product is "not very interesting" to current Tide users. Lafley was trying to combat the idea that current users will simply downgrade to the cheaper product, which would hurt margins, but that may come across negatively to consumers. This isn't the first time Procter & Gamble has tried introducing a cheaper Tide product. Back in 2010, "Tide Basic," a low-priced powdered version of Tide, was rolled out and then quickly pulled from the shelves after testing. Furthermore, Procter & Gamble already has Cheer, Era, and Gain, which are all considered budget-conscious detergents, and the new Tide Simply Clean could cannibalize those other brands.
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