For once, the stock market wasn't able to recover from its losses, as the Dow Jones Industrials (DJINDICES:^DJI) backed off from their record highs yesterday in giving up 112 points. After a fairly long string of favorable data on the U.S. economy recently, today's news of sluggish growth in the services sector and in the private job market seemed much more consistent with the signs of weakness we've seen internationally. With commodity stocks in particular getting hit hard today, fears that the recovery in the U.S. may be the best the world has to offer in terms of growth could hold back the stock market for a while.
In the meantime, though, some story stocks will still buck the downward bias and head higher. Merck (NYSE:MRK) climbed 1% as it released a favorable study of its insomnia drug suvorexant. The study argues that Merck's drug could help patients avoid some side effects of existing insomnia drugs because suvorexant targets a different set of neurotransmitters. If Merck can differentiate suvorexant from existing medications, the company could gain a key competitive advantage if the drug gains FDA approval.
Elsewhere, Zynga (NASDAQ:ZNGA) soared 15% as it went forward with its plans to offer online gambling. With the launch of ZyngaPlusCasino and ZyngaPlusPoker in the U.K., Zynga partnered with Party Poker operator bwin.party. The real test for Zynga will come later if online gambling becomes legal in the U.S., but for now, investors seem satisfied that the social gaming giant will be able to monetize at least some of its customer base.
Finally, Latin American telecom NII Holdings (OTC:NIHDQ) jumped more than 21%. With reports that Chile's Entel wants to buy out NII's Peruvian business for $500 million, investors are excited that NII appears to be following through on its strategy of selling off non-core assets to focus on the stronger Mexican and Brazilian markets. Cash from the sales will go a long way toward capital expenditures designed to boost the company's presence in these key markets, and if these reports prove true, the sale of the Peru business marks an important first step.