Boeing (NYSE: BA ) is trying to push the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI ) up, but a fall in pharmaceutical stocks is keeping the Dow Jones flat today. As of 1:25 p.m. EDT the Dow was down 31 points to 16,528. The S&P 500 (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC ) was flat at 1,883 points.
The Dow Jones started the day in the green following a far better April nonfarm payrolls than many had expected. The economy added 288,000 jobs in April, and unemployment dropped to 6.3%. But the Dow sank back to breakeven for the day after tensions flared in Ukraine and pharmaceutical stocks dropped.
Merck (NYSE: MRK ) is down 2.3% after the company reported that the Data and Safety Monitoring Board recommended that Merck halt its trials for its ovarian cancer treatment, a joint venture with Endocyte. While this is a disaster for Endocyte, whose shares are currently down 62%, Merck will be fine, given its diversified drug portfolio.
This is certainly a setback, though, as Merck is in the process of focusing its efforts on cancer drugs, cholesterol drugs, diabetes drugs, and vaccines. As part of this effort, Merck is debating either selling off or strengthening its animal health and consumer health divisions. Merck has been asking for $10 billion for its consumer health business, and yesterday a rumor surfaced that Bayer was in talks to buy the business for $14 billion. While Merck's stock is dropping today, it's still near an all-time high. Despite the setback, Merck's plan to refocus itself and replenish its pipeline should allow Merck to continue to crush the Dow for years more.
Today's Dow leader is Boeing (NYSE: BA ) , up 1.5%. Boeing today announced that it delivered its 75th 747 to Lufthansa today. Lufthansa has been buying 747s from Boeing since 1970. The Boeing 747 is now on its fifth version, the 747-800. This shows the staying power jetliners have and the reason analysts are so excited about Boeing's new plane, the 787 Dreamliner.
The 787 Dreamliner was first delivered three years ago and promises significant operational savings to airlines, as it weighs less and uses less fuel than the 747. As the worldwide economy strengthens, you can expect that people will travel more and airlines will have more cash to invest in new planes, which should mean increased orders for Boeing. Some analysts see value in the shares, including Alliance Bernstein, which reaffirmed its "outperform" rating today, as well as its price target of $167.
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