Dow Gives up Early Gains as Pfizer Falls; Procter & Gamble, JPMorgan Climb

The Dow Jones Industrials (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) got off to a strong start Monday, jumping 75 points in the first few minutes of trading. Yet those gains evaporated quickly, hastened by a drop in the flash Markit Purchasing Managers' Index for March, and as of 10:45 a.m. EDT, the Dow was down 27 points. Pacing the decline was Pfizer (NYSE: PFE  ) , offsetting gains from Procter & Gamble (NYSE: PG  ) and JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM  ) .

Pfizer fell almost 2% even after releasing phase 3 study results over the weekend for its tofacitinib treatment for chronic plaque psoriasis. The study found that the oral treatment demonstrated noninferiority among patients taking 10 mg of the drug twice a day compared to twice-weekly doses of injected Enbrel, but that smaller 5 mg doses were insufficient to meet the noninferiority criteria. With tofacitinib already approved for use in rheumatoid arthritis under the brand name Xeljanz, expanding its indications would be a win for Pfizer, but ongoing concerns about the future of health-care regulation could weigh on the stock's longer-term prospects. Those general concerns also appear to be holding Merck (NYSE: MRK  ) back, as its stock is down more than 1% this morning.

But other stocks gave investors a more encouraging performance on Monday. Procter & Gamble soared 2.3%, recovering all of the ground it lost in the last couple of hours of trading on Friday. The company didn't make any new announcements justifying the jump, showing the need to put daily movements in context in order to avoid drawing incorrect conclusions. The consumer goods giant's stock is only slightly above where it traded early Friday afternoon, and while P&G has plenty of growth prospects, it also has to face the challenge of an emerging-market environment that isn't completely conducive to high growth.

Finally, JPMorgan Chase rose 1% after news that one of its top bankers in Hong Kong will leave the company. JPMorgan got embroiled in controversy after reports that the bank was systemically hiring children of top officials in China's Communist Party. Although investigators haven't made direct allegations against the bank, any connection between these hiring decisions and any deals that would have boosted JPMorgan's revenue could arguably violate federal laws against accepting bribes. Investors clearly hope that the move will be sufficient to avoid any further difficulties, especially given the extensive legal costs that JPMorgan has had to pay in recent years.

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