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Johnson & Johnson Fends Off the Dow's 50-Point Drop

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  )  had fallen 54 points as of 2:30 p.m. EDT Monday. but kept its head above the 17,000-point milestone reached last week. Most of the blue-chip index's member stocks are in the red. Johnson & Johnson  (NYSE: JNJ  )  has gained 0.6% to buck the trend, while UnitedHealth Group  (NYSE: UNH  ) stumbled 1.3% to the near-bottom of the index.

Will J&J's run in 2014 keep up?

Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Johnson & Johnson hasn't released much news on the day, but that hasn't stopped this stock from continuing its 16% year-to-date charge up the charts. J&J will report earnings next week, and investors are hoping this company can keep up its run of success -- particularly in its thriving pharmaceuticals division, which has led the heath-care giant's growth as of late. In the first quarter, J&J's drug division led the way with year-over-year revenue growth of 10.8%. Lead seller Remicade continues to form a rock-solid foundation for this business, while growth drivers such as immunology therapy Stelara and cancer-fighting Zytiga have surged with double-digit sales growth.

While that's promising for J&J's future, investors need to keep an eye on the rest of this diversified company. Johnson & Johnson's medical device division makes nearly as much revenue as its pharmaceutical business, and growth in devices has been elusive as of late. The unit posted operational sales growth of less than 2% in the last reported quarter; with currency issues added, medical devices saw flat year-over-year sales. J&J's sale of its diagnostics unit should boost growth later in the year, as the $4 billion divestment of a unit that posted a 7% sales decline in the previous quarter is expected to close sometime later this year.

J&J's surgical care and orthopedics divisions, its top two device units by revenue, need to stave off competitive pressure from industry peers -- particularly in light of orthopedics rival Zimmer Holdings's (NYSE: ZMH  ) acquisition of Biomet earlier this year -- to stay on track. That $13 billion deal makes Zimmer the second-largest orthopedic device maker on the market and a much more formidable competitor to J&J's own division moving forward. With fellow orthopedics challenger Stryker looking at its own growth possibilities, this will be an industry to watch for J&J investors.

Elsewhere on the Dow today, UnitedHealth fell despite little activity from the market's largest health insurer. Despite UnitedHealth's strong year-to-date showing, the stock has posted a meager 2.8% gain over the last three months. While the insurer was hit by higher drug costs and increased pricing in the first quarter -- pressures that led to a 4% decline in operating profit -- there's still plenty of long-term upside here. UnitedHealth's size, particularly in the thriving Medicaid business, bodes well looking forward. The company'sMedicaid membership grew by 10% year-over-year in its last quarter; with the expansion of the program on a state-by-state basis under the Affordable Care Act, this is an area to watch for investors across the industry -- and one that could help UnitedHealth in the near term as Obamacare's rollout finds its legs.

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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%
JNJ $95.17 Down -1.05 -1.09%
Johnson & Johnson CAPS Rating: ****
UNH $117.28 Down -0.49 -0.42%
UnitedHealth Group CAPS Rating: *****
ZMH $0.00 Down +0.00 +0.00%
Zimmer Holdings, I… CAPS Rating: ****