So much for the stock market gains that dominated most of today's trading. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) has fallen into the red in the afternoon session, down a modest 22 points as of 2:20 p.m. EDT. Most stocks on the blue-chip index have taken losses as Wall Street eyes the results of the Fed's meeting, set to be released tomorrow. What's impacting your portfolio? Let's dive into today's top stories.
Pfizer and Merck head in different directions
Health care companies Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) and Merck (NYSE:MRK) kicked things off today by reporting second-quarter results. Pfizer has dominated headlines this week for its organizational shakeup as it looks to transition into a streamlined future centered around its high-growth branded-pharmaceuticals core. That didn't stop the company from laying out a solid earnings beat today, however, which sent shares rising 0.7% to rank among the Dow's leaders.
Pfizer reported adjusted earnings per share of $0.56, beating bottom-line earnings estimates. However, the company's sales fell by more than 7% as generic competition for cholesterol-fighting drug Lipitor, which lost patent exclusivity last year, ate away at the drug's revenue. Despite the drop, Pfizer maintained its full-year outlook, and the firm has a number of promising drugs both in the pipeline and recently launched onto the market that should help replace Lipitor's lost sales.
The optimism is in short supply over at Merck. Although Pfizer's rival beat projections with adjusted EPS of $0.84 for the quarter, revenue plunged 11%. It wasn't just generic competition that hurt Merck this quarter, either: The company's star diabetes medication, Januvia, was stung by the dollar's strength, which weakened overseas sales. Januvia picked up just 1% growth for the quarter, although said growth would have come in at 7% if not for the currency issues.
Januvia is Merck's bread and butter, having brought in more than $5 billion in sales last year, but the drug will need to keep growing as Merck loses sales from former top blockbuster asthma drug Singulair. Merck has some promise in its drug pipeline, but the company will need to step it up if it wants to keep pace with Pfizer and other top dogs in the pharmaceutical industry. Today's muted report pulled down Merck's shares by 0.5%, even as the company reiterated its full-year outlook.
Merck is hardly today's biggest loser, however. Verizon (NYSE:VZ) leads the Dow's laggards, falling by more than 2%. Verizon recently expressed interest in entering the Canadian market, toying with the idea of purchasing Canada's Wind Mobile back in June. The Canadians may not love the idea, though: The country's recently appointed industry minister, James Moore, is under heat from domestic wireless firms and industry sources to hold back potential subsidies that would ease the entry of Verizon and other international carriers.
Rumors that Verizon and other big telecoms are seeking to enter Canada have sent share prices at the country's wireless companies plunging. Canadian firm Telus was blocked by the government from purchasing rival domestic company Mobilicity, a firm that Verizon is also considering buying.
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