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IBM, Pfizer Climb as the Dow Inches Closer to 17,000

By Dan Carroll – Jul 2, 2014 at 2:30PM

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Delta Air Lines takes a big hit on a bad day for airline stocks.

The market has bounced around today as investors wait for the Dow Jones Industrial Average (^DJI 0.60%) to cross the 17,000-point mark. As of 2:30 p.m. EDT, the Dow was up 18 points, with its 30 member stocks split nearly evenly between risers and losers. IBM (IBM 3.21%) led the Dow with a 1% spike. Outside of the blue-chip index, Delta Air Lines (DAL 1.71%) has fallen 5.2%. Let's catch up on what you need to know.

IBM searching for answers abroad
IBM investors have gotten used to a slumping stock, as shares of the tech giant have fallen by 2.6% over the past year and have barely budged in 2014. Today's jump is a nice respite even on little news from the company, but investors still have all eyes on IBM's future -- particularly abroad. The company's deal to sell off its low-end server unit to China's Lenovo is still on track to wrap up by the end of the year, even as security concerns have popped up around the transaction. Investors hope the move will allow IBM to focus on growth in its hardware business, particularly after the tech giant's revenue plunged by nearly 4% year over year in its most recent quarter.

To execute a long-term turnaround, IBM will need more growth out of its own business in China; so far the signs aren't encouraging. Reports emerged late in June that select Chinese companies areeschewing higher-end servers from international giants such as IBM and pivoting toward lower-cost, domestically made hardware. IBM said that first-quarter revenue from Asia's largest market fell by 20% year over year. Considering that IBM's hardware revenue took a 23% pounding in that quarter, investors should stay wary of this stock's long-term prospects until IBM can show more meaningful progress in turning around its stagnant growth.

Elsewhere on the Dow today, shares of Pfizer (PFE -0.42%) have gained 1% so far. Like IBM, the company has had a quiet news day. Pfizer's stock fell more than 1% through the first half of the year, but Wall Street remains hopeful that this company can pull off a big acquisition in the near future. While Pfizer's attempts to buy AstraZeneca (AZN 1.21%) fell through, analysts believe a higher bid -- AstraZeneca turned down earlier offers due in part to its belief that Pfizer undervalued its prospects -- could still woo the British drugmaker.

Pfizer can't court AstraZeneca again for another six months under British law. Still, with the drugmaker struggling to reignite sales growth after the patent cliff slammed former to seller Lipitor in 2012, expect this Big Pharma player to keep its acquisition options open.

Source: Wikimedia Commons,

Outside the Dow, airline stocks are making big news in a bad way. Delta has fallen the hardest today among large-cap airline stocks after reporting its traffic numbers for June. The company saw domestic traffic jump by 3.9% for the month, while overall traffic has climbed by 4.3% year over year. Delta's unit revenue also jumped by 6% in the month. While Wall Street is concerned about traffic and fare prices as competition pressures airlines -- particularly after German carrier Lufthansa last month lowered its guidance for the year -- Delta's latest results have the company on a respectable path going forward in 2014.

Investors should keep an eye on volatile fuel prices, especially with the turmoil in the Middle East potentially posing problems. For now, though, Delta's stock hasn't suffered -- in fact, shares have climbed by 45% on the year. Some of today's drop likely involves investors using an excuse to take profits after the strong year so far.

Dan Carroll has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of International Business Machines. 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.

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