Yesterday the Federal Reserve announced that it would continue attempting to stimulate the economy by holding interest rates down until the unemployment rate falls to 6.5%. Today the U.S. Department of Labor released the initial jobless-claims number for last week, and although it fell by 29,000 from the prior reading, roughly 343,000 Americans filed for first-time benefits last week. The central bank has been working to stimulate the economy for four years, and yet the unemployment is still high, and hundreds of thousands of Americans claim new jobless benefits every week.
And that may be the reason Wall Street didn't rally behind the Fed's move to continue doing the same old thing. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) is lagging again today, down 55 points, or 0.4%, as of 12:50 p.m. EST. Currently, 25 of the Dow's 30 components are trading in the red. Three of the biggest losers are Merck (NYSE:MRK), UnitedHealth (NYSE:UNH), and Boeing (NYSE:BA).
So why are they down?
Shares of pharmaceutical giant Merck are trading lower by 1.4% today. One reason for the price drop is that the stock went ex-dividend today, so shares were automatically cut by $0.43, which is the amount of its quarterly dividend payable on Jan. 8 of next year. But shares are down $0.63 today, so the additional drop could be related to comments the company's CEO, Kenneth Frazier, made about the fiscal cliff and possible price controls on drugs. Some politicians have proposed that one way to cut the government's soaring costs would be to negotiate lower drug prices with big pharmaceuticals. In response, Frazier warned that such price cuts would crimp spending on research and development, hampering innovation. Shares of fellow Dow pharma stock Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) are also lower, down 0.4%.
Shares of UnitedHealth are down 0.9% today after a group of Republican Senators requested a postponement of certain rules associated with the Affordable Care Act. The government allows the public 30 days to review and voice their opinions on the new rules. This extension pushes the date the law will go into effect and raises more uncertainty in the market place.
Shares of Boeing are sliding lower today after a Qatar Airways Boeing 787 Dreamliner was grounded. Inspectors found a faulty fuel line in the aircraft -- the same issue which caused a United Airlines Dreamliner to recently make an emergency landing. Just last month Boeing announced it had increased production at its plants, but with continual mechanical problems popping up, perhaps the company should concentrate on producing a safe product first. The stock price is down 1.1%.
Fool contributor Matt Thalman has no positions in the stocks mentioned above. The Motley Fool has no positions in the stocks mentioned above. Motley Fool newsletter services recommend UnitedHealth Group. 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.