Dow's Bumpy Ride Keeps It in Positive Territory


The Dow Jones Industrial Average has had a wild ride this morning, but stayed up nevertheless. With the index poised to break the 14,000 mark with just a few more points, there are two main factors that have bolstered it so far today: economic news and a good day for pharmaceuticals.

After the Dow closed basically flat yesterday, investors may have cooled to the idea of the large acquisitions announced during the day. And with news that industrial production slipped in January by 0.1% after a 0.4% gain in December, we may have been in for a downward trend.

The good news
Shortly after the industrial production numbers release, investors got two pieces of good news. First, the February Empire State manufacturing index jumped to 10, a markedly large jump from analysts' expectations of -2. Add to that the three-month high reported from the University of Michigan's consumer sentiment index, and we're off to the races. Beating the estimated jump to 74.8, the index rose to 76.3 in February from 73.8 in January.

A good day on the Pharm
Pfizer was the biggest winner in the index this morning, up 1.13% as of this writing. Despite a good IPO two weeks ago for its spinoff Zoetis, an animal health business, Pfizer didn't get the boost that one might expect if you make $2.2 billion from the offering and still own 83% of the business. Investors may not have seen the great upside for Pfizer then, but analysts did. The pharmaceutical giant received a new buy rating from today, and Goldman Sachs has raised the stock's price target to $32 . Pfizer also got the endorsement of another important group, the Society for the Study of Pain, Nigeria. The SSPN has endorsed Pfizer's therapeutic pain product for the treatment of neuropathic pain. With the analyst backing and drug endorsement, Pfizer may get some more investor attention that boosts it to the new target.

Some smaller pharma companies are also on the rise this morning. An announcement that a customer would be pausing drug trials of Affymax's anemia drug sent shares plunging down yesterday morning. The stock recovered by the end of the day and is enjoying a 5.69% rise as of this writing. The news isn't as bad as it sounds, as the medical center testing the drug said it had gathered the information it needed to decide on a long-term contract for the drug (Omontys) with Affymax. Doctors will continue to use the drug as they see fit.

We've got a full on megainvestor battle on our hands. Just three weeks after a contentious battle over the business model at Herbalife with Bill Ackman, Carl Icahn disclosed that he now has a 12.98% stake in the company. Shares shot up 20% for the company after yesterday's release, and have continued to climb further this morning -- up another 14.66% at 11:45 a.m. ET. Ackman had disclosed a large short position on the company based on his belief that Herbalife is a pyramid scheme. Ichan's disclosure refutes the idea, though the company has not come out and done so itself. As the company is set to release its fourth-quarter earnings next week, investors will get to see how this battle royal will affect the company's future moves.

Finally, Questcor Pharmaceuticals has gotten a nice boost this morning, though no real news has been released. Set to announce its fourth-quarter earnings on Feb. 26, the company has become an analyst favorite due to its frequent share buybacks, despite several pending lawsuits regarding shareholder rights.

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