S&P 500 Hits New Record Highs as the Dow Gains

Merck's big day keeps the Dow moving higher.

Feb 28, 2014 at 2:31PM

We're back to breaching record highs on the markets this week as the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) continues its march upward. As of 2:30 p.m. EST, the Dow has gained 93 points -- down from triple-digits earlier in trading -- and sits only about 200 points off the all-time high set last year. Nearly every blue-chip stock on the Dow is gaining ground today, with Big Pharma's Merck (NYSE:MRK) among the best by pulling down a 1% jump. Meanwhile, the S&P 500 (SNPINDEX:^GSPC) hit a new intraday high today by gaining around 0.5%. Let's catch up on what you need to know.

Shakiness in the U.S. economy?

Daily Fool

The economy kicked things off with disappointing but expected news today. U.S. GDP grew at an annual rate of just 2.4% in the fourth quarter, below the 3.2% economists initially had predicted. Consumer spending gained less than projected, picking up just 2.6% for the quarter. With the winter's harsh weather negatively impacting the first quarter, economists are questioning if the American economy's progress will slow in the early going of 2014.

Still, the gains posted aren't anywhere near worrying territory yet: Exports gained more than 9% during the fourth quarter, and much of the losses for the economy came from a 5% reduction in government spending. For American businesses, the U.S. economy still looks in great shape heading forward – even if it's not advancing as fast as everyone hopes.

The report hasn't hurt the Dow at all today, and Merck's stock hasn't shown the faintest signs of weakness during the day's run. Merck hasn't reported much in the way of news, but investors have rallied behind the company's increasing momentum as of late. The stock has picked up more than 14% year to date, overcoming the Street's shakiness early in January. While Merck's performance hasn't turned heads yet -- the company's most recent earnings report fell below analyst bottom-line expectations as the company's ballyhooed diabetes drugs Januvia and Janumet struggle to find more than modest growth -- Wall Street has pushed hard behind the company's up-and-coming drugs that could promise billions of dollars in future annual revenue.

Nothing else in Merck's pipeline approaches the promise of MK-3475, a cancer therapy under consideration by the FDA for the treatment of melanoma. Analysts have upgraded annual sales projections of the drug in 2014, with many now expecting between $3 billion and $4 billion in annual revenue from MK-3475 down the road, assuming it can pick up approval for more indications in the near future. However, Merck's all-oral hepatitis C therapy, while not among the first drugs hitting the market, also has impressed. Merck's current hepatitis C med, Victrelis, has lost steam lately. While the company has a long way to go to catch up to the leaders in this potentially $20 billion market -- Gilead Sciences' (NASDAQ:GILD) Sovaldi gained approval last December and may one day hit $7 billion or more in peak annual sales -- Merck's still pushing its own all-oral hep C therapy hard.

Have you made the most of the market's rise?
Millions of Americans have waited on the sidelines since the market meltdown in 2008 and 2009, too scared to invest and put their money at further risk. Yet those who've stayed out of the market have missed out on huge gains and put their financial futures in jeopardy. In our brand-new special report, "Your Essential Guide to Start Investing Today," The Motley Fool's personal finance experts show you why investing is so important and what you need to do to get started. Click here to get your copy today -- it's absolutely free.

Dan Carroll has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Gilead Sciences. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

1 Key Step to Get Rich

Our mission at The Motley Fool is to help the world invest better. Whether that’s helping people overcome their fear of stocks all the way to offering clear and successful guidance on complicated-sounding options trades, we can help.

Feb 1, 2016 at 4:54PM

To be perfectly clear, this is not a get-rich action that my Foolish colleagues and I came up with. But we wouldn't argue with the approach.

A 2015 Business Insider article titled, "11 websites to bookmark if you want to get rich" rated The Motley Fool as the #1 place online to get smarter about investing.

"The Motley Fool aims to build a strong investment community, which it does by providing a variety of resources: the website, books, a newspaper column, a radio [show], and [newsletters]," wrote (the clearly insightful and talented) money reporter Kathleen Elkins. "This site has something for every type of investor, from basic lessons for beginners to investing commentary on mutual funds, stock sectors, and value for the more advanced."

Our mission at The Motley Fool is to help the world invest better, so it's nice to receive that kind of recognition. It lets us know we're doing our job.

Whether that's helping the entirely uninitiated overcome their fear of stocks all the way to offering clear and successful guidance on complicated-sounding options trades, we want to provide our readers with a boost to the next step on their journey to financial independence.

Articles and beyond

As Business Insider wrote, there are a number of resources available from the Fool for investors of all levels and styles.

In addition to the dozens of free articles we publish every day on our website, I want to highlight two must-see spots in your tour of fool.com.

For the beginning investor

Investing can seem like a Big Deal to those who have yet to buy their first stock. Many investment professionals try to infuse the conversation with jargon in order to deter individual investors from tackling it on their own (and to justify their often sky-high fees).

But the individual investor can beat the market. The real secret to investing is that it doesn't take tons of money, endless hours, or super-secret formulas that only experts possess.

That's why we created a best-selling guide that walks investors-to-be through everything they need to know to get started. And because we're so dedicated to our mission, we've made that available for free.

If you're just starting out (or want to help out someone who is), go to www.fool.com/beginners, drop in your email address, and you'll be able to instantly access the quick-read guide ... for free.

For the listener

Whether it's on the stationary exercise bike or during my daily commute, I spend a lot of time going nowhere. But I've found a way to make that time benefit me.

The Motley Fool offers five podcasts that I refer to as "binge-worthy financial information."

Motley Fool Money features a team of our analysts discussing the week's top business and investing stories, interviews, and an inside look at the stocks on our radar. It's also featured on several dozen radio stations across the country.

The hosts of Motley Fool Answers challenge the conventional wisdom on life's biggest financial issues to reveal what you really need to know to make smart money moves.

David Gardner, co-founder of The Motley Fool, is among the most respected and trusted sources on investing. And he's the host of Rule Breaker Investing, in which he shares his insights into today's most innovative and disruptive companies ... and how to profit from them.

Market Foolery is our daily look at stocks in the news, as well as the top business and investing stories.

And Industry Focus offers a deeper dive into a specific industry and the stories making headlines. Healthcare, technology, energy, consumer goods, and other industries take turns in the spotlight.

They're all informative, entertaining, and eminently listenable ... and I don't say that simply because the hosts all sit within a Nerf-gun shot of my desk. Rule Breaker Investing and Answers contain timeless advice, so you might want to go back to the beginning with those. The other three take their cues from the market, so you'll want to listen to the most recent first. All are available at www.fool.com/podcasts.

But wait, there's more

The book and the podcasts – both free ... both awesome – also come with an ongoing benefit. If you download the book, or if you enter your email address in the magical box at the podcasts page, you'll get ongoing market coverage sent straight to your inbox.

Investor Insights is valuable and enjoyable coverage of everything from macroeconomic events to investing strategies to our analyst's travels around the world to find the next big thing. Also free.

Get the book. Listen to a podcast. Sign up for Investor Insights. I'm not saying that any of those things will make you rich ... but Business Insider seems to think so.

Compare Brokers