A quick glance at the markets a week ago and today might have you thinking it was a quiet week on Wall Street. The Dow Jones industrial Average rose a minuscule 0.13% for the week and the S&P 500 fell 0.28%. But in between the weekly closes there was a lot of action. The Federal Reserve's minutes, released Wednesday, sent the entire market screaming lower, driven by banking stocks. The losses continued Thursday, but a positive earnings report by Hewlett-Packard helped send stocks higher to end the week.
HP's earnings report was more a case of "not as bad as expected" than it was an impressive report. Five of six businesses saw revenue decline in the fiscal first quarter, although it didn't decline quite as much as analysts expected. That sent shares 14.4% higher for the week and 69% higher than their 52-week low, but it doesn't make HP a screaming buy. This is a value trap if I've ever seen one, and unless HP can make inroads into growing markets such as tablets and smartphones, it will slowly die along with the PC and printing businesses it used to dominate.
Merck was up 3.7% for the week as investors slowly warm up to pharmaceutical and medical stocks again. The company struck an agreement with Samsung Bioepsis to develop multiple pre-specified and undisclosed biosimilar candidates. Samsung will be responsible for development, manufacturing, and clinical trials while Merck will leverage its network to commercialize the products. This is a lower risk process than developing drugs on your own, so it's an incremental positive for Merck going forward.
Coca-Cola was up 2.9% for the week, partly because it raised its quarterly dividend 10% to $0.28 per share. That equates to a 2.9% dividend yield, well above what Treasuries are paying. The company also got a slight boost after reports came out that Pepsi was almost impossible to find in Thailand. When Pepsi broke up with bottler Serm Suk the company launched its own soft drink, effectively whipping Pepsi off the map in the Asian Country. PepsiCo's loss is Coca-Cola's gain, at least in this small market.
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