On Thursday, the Dow Jones Industrials (DJINDICES:^DJI) closed the day up almost 62 points, closing to within 1% of the record level it set on the last day of 2013. Throughout the market, investors have looked closely at recent U.S. economic data to assess the economy's ability to keep expanding, and even though today's figures on jobless claims and other related data gave some hints on how the job market is performing, Friday's Labor Department report for February will have the potential to move the Dow if it surprises in either direction. Meanwhile, today, Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) was among the rare decliners in the Dow, while AT&T (NYSE:T) managed to gain ground as it tries to convince customers that it is working hard to boost its quality to fight rival Verizon (NYSE:VZ).
For Pfizer, today's loss of almost 1% made the pharma stock the worst performer in the Dow Thursday. Given the impressive gains that the stock has seen so far in 2014 despite the Dow's lackluster performance, Pfizer's decline today was likely nothing more than simple trader-induced profit-taking. But the company got bad news after the bell, as it revealed that it would recall some of its Effexor antidepressant capsules as well as those of subsidiary Greenstone's Venlafaxine. Pfizer said that a pharmacist had reported that one bottle of Effexor also contained a capsule of anti-arhythmia drug Tikosyn, and with the company warning that the two drugs can be fatal for certain patients if taken together, Pfizer decided that the precaution was warranted. The stock actually gained ground after hours, as the recall only affects two lots of Effexor, and one lot of Venlafaxine.
Meanwhile, AT&T climbed two-thirds of a percent on a busy day for the telecom giant. The company issued a long series of press releases touting the billions of dollars it has spent on enhancing wireless networks across the country. Of particular note was the company's $1.6 billion investment in the Seattle/Tacoma area, which includes some of the most influential technology companies in the nation. Along with other tech-heavy areas like Silicon Valley, Seattle is an important focal point for wireless networks in trying to establish their reputations. With Verizon having long boasted of its greater coverage area and arguing that its network quality is also higher, AT&T's investments will need to prove themselves out in better coverage in order to convince potential customers that it offers a superior product. As AT&T and Verizon fight each other and their smaller rivals in what's becoming an increasingly tough price war, the entire industry will have to find ways to differentiate themselves from their competitors.