It looked like stock markets were going to start off the week sharply higher today until House Speaker John Boehner said he would support President Obama's request to use force in Syria. Then we went back to the old war-fearing sell-off. Late in the trading day, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) is up just 0.17%, and the S&P 500 (SNPINDEX:^GSPC) is up 0.43%.
Economic data was fairly strong today, and a rash of M&A activity over the weekend should have given the market a bit of a boost, but Syria has overshadowed that for a week now. Purchasing managers' indexes released by Markit and the Institute for Supply Management read 53.1 and 55.7%, respectively, both indicating economic expansion in August.
Positive PMI data and the possibility that the Department of Defense will loosen its purse strings to pay for an attack in Syria have pushed United Technologies (NYSE:UTX) 2.6% higher today. Pratt & Whitney is the company's second-largest division, and UTC Aerospace Systems also generates a significant amount of revenue from the military, so an increase in spending would definitely help operations. Most people aren't rooting for war in Syria, but if it happens, United Technologies will benefit financially.
The big loser today is Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) after it announced that it will buy Nokia's (NYSE:NOK) handset business. Think what you will about the deal, but keep in mind that with Microsoft's stock down 5.1% today, its market cap is down about $19 billion. Considering the fact that Microsoft is only paying $7.2 billion for Nokia, the market currently thinks this will destroy another $12 billion in value. That's wildly overblown, even if the Microsoft-Nokia merger doesn't result in strong growth in the handset business.
Fool contributor Travis Hoium manages an account that owns shares of Apple and Microsoft. The Motley Fool recommends Apple and Google. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Google, and Microsoft. 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.