Speculation Sickens the Dow, Pharma Tries to Cure It


Overall, the market is seeing red today. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 36 points as of 11 a.m. EDT, with little momentum to push it higher. After closing above 15,000 for the past four days in trading, the index might be slipping back to its previous territory. But most of the headlines sending shocks through the market are based on speculation, leaving few facts to help the index maintain its gains.

Policy as usual
Though the recent FOMC meeting resulted in the announcement of continued quantitative easing, there have been whispers about the Fed beginning to back off the current pace for bond purchasing that has been the basis of its QE policy. Apparently, the Fed members have prepared a strategy to scale down its monetary easing, though The Wall Street Journal article that broke the news provided no information on when this might begin.

The Fed will have to wind down the program at some point. And though this is seen as a negative in the markets, the recent headlines may be a way to help manage Wall Street's expectations for how long the program will last.

In other news
This morning's retail sales data was higher than expected, as sales unexpectedly rose 0.1% in April. Analysts had expected the Commerce Department to report a 0.3% drop for last month after sales fell 0.5% in March. A strong improvement of 1% in car sales drove the overall rise for April, with home building supplies and garden equipment also driving the month's sales higher. Gasoline prices proved to be the force behind lower sales for the month, which is not unfavorable to consumer spending.

Pharma is on call
Though the Dow is down this morning, its pharmaceutical component stocks are rising, which may be helping limit the negative impact of the Fed speculation. Pfizer is leading the way this morning with a 1.31% rise just before 11:30 a.m. EDT. Despite announcing a second recall of its thyroid-disease treatment Levoxyl for potency problems, the drugmaker is going higher today. The company is establishing online sales for its Viagra patients in a move to avoid further development of outside, illegal sales. As Viagra is one of the world's most counterfeited drugs, the online sales from Pfizer will present a genuine option for customers, while giving the company access to the large Internet market for the drug.

Elsewhere, Pfizer is evaluating its continued partnership on an experimental oxycodone capsule, Remoxy. The drug is an extended-release formula that is targeted at reducing abuse of the painkiller. After years of setbacks and postponements for FDA approval, Pfizer is weighing its options. Its partners for the drug, Pain Therapeutics and Durect, have both fallen heavily due to the news, with Pain Therapeutics falling more than 50% -- its largest decline ever.

Merck is also up this morning, by 0.13%. The company is benefiting from its recent announcement that it and partner GlaxoSmithKline will be reducing prices for their HPV vaccines in an effort to make them available to girls in the world's poorest regions. Providing a 95% discount from the U.S. rate, the doses of the vaccine will cost $4.50 under the new policy. HPV is the leading cause of cervical cancer in women, and to date there has been little done to try to provide the inoculations to the poorest countries, where 80% of the deaths from cervical cancer occur.

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