UnitedHealth Leads a Sluggish Dow Higher


Stocks are pushing up into record territory again, although today's gains are of the modest type a day after the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed above 15,000 for the first time. As of 2:15 p.m. EDT, the Dow has gained just 25 points, although a majority of members on the blue chip index are in the green. Several big names are picking up significant gains of more than 1% today. Let's check out the news and movers you need to know.

Stocks rising higher
Shares of UnitedHealth Group have surged higher today by a Dow-leading 2.5%. Despite the gains, UnitedHealth's facing hurdles: Obamacare's the big shadow on the company's radar, as the implementation of health care reform next year is still shrouded in uncertainty. More pressing, however, is that UnitedHealth's in hot water with the Department of Defense over long medical care referral times for military personnel and families. UnitedHealth's acquisition of a contract worth more than $20 billion includes a clause indicating cost reimbursement for "poor performance," and the Pentagon is reportedly looking to get the insurer to reimburse it for the referral delays.

Alcoa's also on the rise today, ranking among the top Dow leaders with shares gaining 2%. The aluminum producer's picking up gains after strong economic data came in from around the world. German manufacturing orders picked up more than 2% in March, a strong sign that Europe's leading economy is on the road to economic expansion this quarter. Meanwhile, China posted a trade surplus in April and sharply increased imports. The industrial sector has been hammered by weakness across the globe - particularly in China, where the economy's slowdown has slammed leading manufacturers. Any rise from these economies is good news for Alcoa and its rivals.

Also in the green, Hewlett-Packard has picked up 2.2% so far today. However, this struggling company is far from a safe bet. The company's much-maligned $11 billion Autonomy acquisition has already caused plenty of headaches at HP, including an $8.8 billion writedown, but now the company's facing a $1 billion lawsuit from shareholders claiming that the company attempted to back out of the Autonomy purchase before completing the acquisition. With its financials struggling, this is the last thing HP needs as it tries to keep its turnaround going.

Not all stocks are in the green today, and Pfizer ranks as one of the Dow's top laggards with shares down 0.6%. The company's recent earnings caused a scare after it missed on both the top and bottom lines and lowered full-year guidance. To help spark sales, Pfizer's reportedly looking into selling Viagra - its well-known erectile dysfunction drug that the company said pulled in more than $2 billion last year - to customers with a prescription over the Internet. The move is an attempt to also counter reported black market sales of the drug, and any reclaimed revenue will mean good things for Pfizer's top line as it tries to dig out from patent expiration-related sales declines.

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