Dow Rises Slightly on Pfizer-AstraZeneca Reports; Disney Gives up Ground

The Dow Jones Industrials (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) were up six points at 11 a.m. EDT as investors prepare for another deluge of earnings results this week. With nine Dow components reporting earnings last week and eight more slated for this week, we should have a good sense by Friday how the index fared during the first quarter from a fundamental standpoint. Yet beyond earnings, other news helped move the market, with Pfizer (NYSE: PFE  ) leading the Dow higher even as Disney (NYSE: DIS  ) held back the average from further gains.

Pfizer's 0.8% gain came on reports that the company is looking at spending around $100 billion to buy British drugmaker AstraZeneca (NYSE: AZN  ) . Sources said Pfizer had conducted talks with AstraZeneca about a potential takeover, and even though they say the discussion has ended, speculation that another huge merger could once again change the complexion of the entire pharma industry sent AstraZeneca shares up almost 6%. The real question for Pfizer is whether AstraZeneca's stable of heart-related treatments and pipeline prospects is worth paying up for, especially given that the company's popular Nexium acid-reflux treatment will go off-patent next month. The dilemma shows just how hard it is for drug companies with massive cash flow balances to find productive ways to use their financial resources without simply resorting to share buybacks or dividends.

Source: Disney.

Meanwhile, Disney fell 1.3% despite the fact that its Captain America sequel remained in the top spot in the U.S. box office for a third-straight weekend. Disney sports a relatively hefty valuation, showing how much investors are taking for granted that the entertainment giant will be able to keep ringing the cash register on its deep bench of Marvel superheroes and other franchise-film opportunities. So far there hasn't been much reason to doubt Disney's ability to cash in on new installments, but as investors get more skittish about the market generally, declines like we're seeing this morning in Disney stock aren't unusual or anything to worry too much about.

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