Johnson & Johnson Leads the Dow's Leap

Johnson & Johnson Leads the Dow's Leap

Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over daily movements, we do like to keep an eye on market changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.

Hopes for a deal to end Washington's political standoff have fueled the market's rally today, as the Dow Jones Industrial Average , after a middling start, has kicked into high gear in the afternoon. As of 2:30 p.m. EDT the Dow has picked up gains of almost 100 points. Johnson & Johnson is leading the way for blue-chip stocks, which have mostly surged across the index today. Let's catch up on what you need to know.

Johnson & Johnson moves on up
Johnson & Johnson is up about 1.6% after Goldman Sachs raised the company's rating up to "Neutral" from "Sell." Most investor eyes are on the company's imminent earnings, however, as J&J is set to announce its most recent quarter's results next Tuesday.

What's on the docket for J&J? Analysts project the firm's earnings to rise modestly from a year ago, growing to $1.35 per share from the prior-year quarter's mark of $1.25. Analysts also expect revenue at the company to grow by 2%. It's not a huge jump by either metric, but J&J isn't a company that will wow investors with starry gains like those seen in other health care industries, such as biotech. Instead, this is a strong, steady firm that -- regardless of Tuesday's outcome -- is a solid pick for any portfolio's foundation.

J&J's pharmaceutical business has continued a steady march higher this year. The firm's bread-and-butter immunology drug Remicade continues its standout performance as one of big pharma's best-selling drugs. It has grown sales by 16.5% year over year through the first six months of the year, and J&J is on pace to reap more than $6 billion in revenue from the drug in 2013. Remicade won't last forever, but this drug's astronomical performance over the years is giving a cushion for some of J&J's other promising pharmaceuticals -- such as fast-growing likely blockbuster cancer treatment Zytiga -- time to develop into big hits.

The company's big pharma rival Pfizer isn't having such a good day, with shares down about 0.3% so far to rank among the Dow's most lackluster stocks. That downbeat performance has come after Pfizer announced so-so results from rheumatoid arthritis drug Xeljanz in a clinical study evaluating its use in treating psoriasis. Unfortunately for Xeljanz and Pfizer, the drug only performed as well as competing Amgen drug Enbrel when used at a high dosage, as a low dose of Xeljanz failed to treat patients as effectively as Amgen's top seller.

Analysts still expect Xeljanz to reap sales of more than $1 billion some day for Pfizer, as its existing approval for RA should help it find a niche in a growing market. However, analysts are also pointing out that its impact in the psoriasis market now looks limited. For Amgen, Xeljanz's ho-hum trial results are a boost for a company that needs Enbrel to continue to serve as a solid revenue foundation as it develops new compounds for the future, although Amgen's stock has only inched higher by 0.9% today.

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Originally published