The Dow Jones Industrial Average(DJINDICES:^DJI) has been anything but consistent this week, dropping back into the red today after yesterday's gains. As of 2:15 p.m. EDT, the blue-chip index has shed 40 points, or 0.3%, with most member stocks in negative territory. Investors are still jittery over the proceedings in Europe, but there's a lot more than Cyprus going on in the market. Let's catch up on the movers you need to know about today.
JPMorgan under siege
It's been a tough day for JPMorgan (NYSE:JPM) shareholders. The bank stock has fallen 1.9% to lead the Dow lower as pressure rises from Washington and other prosecutors regarding the company's recent missteps. Some prosecutors are looking into whether or not the bank violated laws by insufficiently alerting authorities to Bernie Madoff's fraudulent scheme, which was revealed in 2008. Eight federal agencies are investigating the bank, including the FDIC and the SEC. Investors should rightly be worried about whether or not the federal bull's-eye on the bank will threaten its future, although it's impossible to say with certainty what will happen to JPMorgan until definitive data emerges from these investigations.
Merck is (NYSE:MRK) also on the downswing today, with shares down 0.8% to rank among the worst Dow laggards. The company's facing ongoing pushback from parents and other groups across America over its HPV vaccine Gardasil. While the drug has sold well (more than $1.6 billion last year), HPV vaccination rates for children remain far behind other well-known and recommended vaccines, such as the Tdap shot for tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis. Merck could use a boost, as patent expirations -- particularly on bestseller Singulair -- have hit the company' s revenue. If public sentiment turns in Gardasil's favor, Merck could face a sales bonanza.
Not all stocks are down today despite the Dow's dip, however. UnitedHealth Group (NYSE:UNH) leads the index higher, with shares up 1.8%. Investors welcomed news that the Medicare program could raise its payments to insurers. That's an extra layer of insurance for UnitedHealth as it enters a post-Obamacare world. While it's hard to predict exactly how health care reform will impact the company, the new law's restrictions on denying patients with pre-existing conditions, among other changes to national health-care legislation, will force UnitedHealth to adapt to an influx of new customers.
Finally, Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) shares also rose by a more modest 0.7% today after reports emerged that telecom company Ericsson is considering acquiring the former's mobile TV service. Microsoft is interested in the sale so it can focus more on its Xbox streaming service as it promotes its gaming console as a centerpiece of home entertainment.