Pfizer's Acquisition Aims Can't Prop up the Dow

After a great start to the day, the market has lost all of its early momentum, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  )  falling into the red before heading back up 17 points as of 2:30 p.m. EDT. Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS  )  was leading the Dow's laggards in shedding 2.2%, part of a decline around the financial industry today. Meanwhile, Pfizer  (NYSE: PFE  ) made big news by confirming its interest in AstraZeneca (NYSE: AZN  ) in what could be the beginnings of a titanic merger in the pharmaceutical industry. Let's catch up on what you need to know.

Goldman, financials on the downswing

Goldman Sachs is continuing what's been a horrible year so far for this leading bank. While this stock trades cheaply compared to its industry peers on both a price-to-earnings and price-to-book ratio, as measured by Motley Fool CAPS, shares have struggled to make the most of the market's rally over the past year. The increasing scrutiny of the financial sector no doubt warrants caution, but among the biggest banks, Goldman has managed to post investor-friendly results as of late.

Industry peers have struggled with turbulence from mortgages and lending, problems the trading-centered Goldman has managed to avoid -- although the company's suffered a fall in its fixed-income business following the financial sector's decline in the space. Still, Goldman's strength in its investment banking arm, which posted its best quarter since 2007 in the bank's most recent earnings report, makes this stock an attractive pick to watch considering its year-to-date slump.

The big Dow news today, however, comes from Pfizer. The stock has jumped about 3.5% so far after the company announced that it is indeed still chasing an acquisition of rival AstraZeneca. It's a potential merger of unprecedented size in the industry, with Pfizer offering nearly $99 billion in its latest proposal -- although AstraZeneca considers that offer too low for the company's value. In turn, AstraZeneca's stock has roared higher today by nearly 11%.

Pfizer's chief reason for pursuing AstraZeneca comes from the company's up-and-coming pipeline of drugs, particularly its portfolio of developmental cancer therapies. While many of these drugs are years from possible regulatory approval, they offer a potential counterweight to Pfizer's loss of patent exclusivity of former top-selling drug Lipitor. Pfizer's newest blockbuster hopefuls -- blood thinner Eliquis and rheumatoid arthritis treatment Xeljanz -- have hit the market slowly so far, and while the potential exists for huge sales in the future, anxious investors have clamored for better growth from this pharma giant.

Another tantalizing possibility for Pfizer exists in the acquisition of the British company. The merger would lead to Pfizer incorporating outside of the U.S., according to Bloomberg, thus avoiding U.S. taxes for repatriating money held abroad. Pfizer holds nearly $70 billion in foreign cash that it hasn't brought back to the U.S.; using those assets as part of an AstraZeneca acquisition would give the company an important edge over American Big Pharma rivals in the international battle for drug sales.

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Dan Carroll

Dan began writing for the Motley Fool in 2012. He is a health care specialist who also follows the defense industry along with tracking the broader U.S. and international markets.

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Related Tickers

8/28/2015 4:55 PM
^DJI $16643.01 Down -11.76 -0.07%
AZN $31.67 Up +0.06 +0.19%
AstraZeneca plc (A… CAPS Rating: ****
GS $187.75 Down -0.81 -0.43%
Goldman Sachs CAPS Rating: ***
PFE $32.66 Down -0.60 -1.80%
Pfizer CAPS Rating: ****