Johnson & Johnson Keeps the Dow's Momentum on Track as Microsoft's Stock Slips

China's manufacturing sector can't dig out of contraction despite an upbeat and expectations-toppin result that kicked off a cautiously optimistic day for the Dow.

May 22, 2014 at 2:30PM
Daily Fool

After a short drop to start the day, stocks have rebounded across the market, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) up 28 as of 2:30 p.m. EDT. The blue-chip index's 30 member stocks are split almost roughly evenly between gainers and losers. Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) is on the rise after optimistic news from the company's medical device division, while Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) stock hasn't been able to get anything going today. Let's catch up on what you need to know.

China still looking for a turnaround

China Flag

Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Things got started on an upbeat note in China today,  as the HSBC/Markit's flash purchasing managers' index came in above expectations. The mark, which measures the activity in the country's manufacturing sector, jumped by 1.6 percentage points in May's preliminary reading from April's final mark. However, the score of 49.7 is still below the level of 50 that indicates neither contraction nor expansion in manufacturing. Employment continues to fall within manufacturing in China, with that mark contracting for the 13th-straight month in May, a trend that won't help the world's second-largest economy escape its slowing economic growth.

Economists project China's GDP to grow by 7.3% this year. That's still far above nearly all other major economies worldwide, but it's a big slide for a country that previously enjoyed double-digit annual GDP growth. Exports also fell in today's flash PMI, an especially concerning trend for Chinese manufacturers given the country's reliance on sending goods abroad for economic growth. While the rise in China's domestic consumption through its growing middle class and urban population will help buoy the economy's momentum overall, Chinese manufacturers and stocks still have a bumpy road ahead to escape the doldrums that have plagued this market over the past year.

Things are looking much better for health-care giant and Dow component Johnson & Johnson. The stock's up around 0.3% so far after management announced the company plans to file for regulatory approval of more than 30 new medical device and diagnostic products through 2016. Johnson & Johnson is particularly turning an eye toward China, hoping to capitalize on that growing middle class and the company's top position in the nation's diabetes device market. J&J has done a good job making the most of its operations in the Asia-Pacific sphere, generating sales growth of 4.5% in the region in its most recent quarter, a mark that topped revenue gains in the U.S.

While currency impacts have slammed the company's foreign operations, Johnson & Johnson's medical device unit has performed far better internationally -- where it saw 4.6% year-over-year growth for the quarter at a constant currency basis -- than it has in the American market, which has dragged down device revenue. Targeting emerging markets such as China and Russia should help keep this division on pace for the long term and please investors looking for more from Johnson & Johnson besides the company's surging pharmaceutical division.

Elsewhere on the Dow today, Microsoft's stock has lost 0.5% so far. The company is looking to appeal to consumers with its upcoming Surface Pro 3 tablet, a device Microsoft hopes can carve out a market that will draw in both tablet and laptop users. However, Microsoft's hardware business hasn't been quite the success the company has hoped for: The Surface line still is trailing behind leaders such as Apple's iPad tablets, and while Microsoft is aiming to compete against Apple's own MacBook Air laptops with the Surface Pro 3, the company will need to hope that tablet users embrace the device amid the PC market's ongoing slide. There's an opportunity here for Microsoft to open up a new market and gain some ground for its struggling hardware line, but a cautious hand serves investors best with this move.

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Dan Carroll has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Apple and Johnson & Johnson. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Johnson & Johnson, and Microsoft. 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.

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