Stock markets moved back into positive territory today and the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) ended 0.34% higher, while the S&P 500 (SNPINDEX:^GSPC) was up 0.17%. Comments from two Federal Reserve officials suggesting that the central bank's bond-buying program has been a success and will continue gave investors enough to jump back in today.
Merck (NYSE:MRK) was the surprise winner of the day after announcing an accelerated $5 billion share purchase program. The company announced earlier this month that it will buy back $15 billion in stock and accelerated a third of that through a transaction with Goldman Sachs. Investors cheered the news by pushing shares 4.7% higher today, but this just shows that Merck simply doesn't know what to do with additional cash. Shares pushed higher all day today, but I don't see this as a catalyst, because Merck reduced full-year guidance and is a shrinking company at this point.
Home Depot (NYSE:HD) jumped 2.5% today after reporting stronger-than-expected fiscal first-quarter earnings. An improving housing market led to a 7.4% rise in revenues to $19.1 billion, and earnings per share increased to $0.83 from $0.68 a year ago. Management also raised its full-year earnings guidance to $3.52 per share from $3.37. It's been a choppy recovery for many companies, but the housing market is seeing steady improvement, and Home Depot is primed to benefit from that over the next few years.
Last but not least is the 1.4% gain shares of JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM) posted today. Sharesholders shot down a proposal that would have split the chairman of the board and CEO roles, leaving Jamie Dimon unchallenged at the top of the behemoth bank. What this really means is that Dimon won't quit in a fit over having his dual role split, but I'm not sure if that's not in the best in the best interest of JPMorgan and its shareholders at this point.
The pharmaceutical giant stumbled into 2013 and continues to battle patent expirations and pipeline problems. So, is Merck still a solid dividend play, or should investors be looking elsewhere? In a new premium research report on Merck, The Fool tackles all of the company's moving parts, its major market opportunities, and reasons to both buy and sell. To find out more click here to claim your copy today.