Lately, the stock market has seemed to look for any excuse to rise, and today was no exception. Positive news on the weekly jobless claims number isn’t usually all that earth-shattering, but it helped vault the Dow Jones Industrials to an 84-point rise, breaking through the 14,500 level, and setting an eighth-straight record on its tenth consecutive day of gains. Skeptics grow increasingly concerned about the euphoria of this record run, but today’s advance was broad based, with small-cap stocks actually rising a more substantial 1% on the day.
But many stocks missed out. Merck & Co., Inc. (NYSE:MRK) was the Dow’s biggest loser, dropping the better part of 1% today on news that the FDA is investigating diabetes drugs to see if there might be a link to potential pancreatic inflammation and pre-cancerous changes. Although many companies make such drugs, Merck’s Januvia has been particularly successful, stepping up to provide a much-needed revenue boost when the company lost patent protection on its Singulair asthma medication. Any threat to that success could pose a big problem for Merck going forward.
The Home Depot, Inc. (NYSE:HD) fell three-quarters of a percent. Yesterday’s retail sales number seemed like a reasonably strong one, but reading into the details revealed some concerns about the strength of the consumer-led recovery. The Home Depot, Inc. (NYSE:HD)’s stock has climbed so substantially based on the belief that strength in the housing market would provide leadership for the overall economy, but anything that puts that theory in jeopardy could lead to a rapid reversal of The Home Depot, Inc. (NYSE:HD)’s gains.