Morning Dow Report: Why Exxon, Chevron, and Merck Are Worth Watching

Morning Dow Report: Why Exxon, Chevron, and Merck Are Worth Watching

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.

Today will bring the Federal Open Market Committee's last policy decision of Ben Bernanke's tenure as Federal Reserve chairman, marking another milestone in the recovery from the financial crisis five years ago. As investors anxiously await the central bank's 's next move as the Janet Yellen era looms on the horizon, the Dow Jones Industrials seemed to signal their optimism, rising 45 points as of 11 a.m. EST. Overall, few Dow components made major moves, but news affecting Merck , Chevron , and ExxonMobil was noteworthy despite the limited impact on their share prices.

Merck's announced collaboration with GlaxoSmithKline to develop a combination treatment to fight renal cell cancer didn't help either stock move higher, with Merck edging down 0.1% and Glaxo falling 0.6%. But the start of a clinical trial combining Glaxo's pazopanib kinase-inhibitor and Merck's MK-3475 immunotherapy treatment could help demonstrate the effectiveness of blocking PD-1 proteins and encouraging natural immune responses to fight cancer and other diseases. In the long run, success in clinical trials like this one could lead to breakthroughs across the pharma industry.

Meanwhile, Exxon and Chevron both posted solid gains of about 1%. West Texas Intermediate crude oil prices rose above $98, but the move upward for both energy giants seemed to center on broader investor optimism that the companies can overcome production challenges and enjoy greater success from new energy finds across the globe. That enthusiasm was strong enough to help Chevron's stock overcome an adverse yesterday ruling that opened up its Canadian assets to potential levy in connection with an Ecuadoran judgment against the oil company. Overall, investors continue to see strong growth in energy, and that's leading to greater interest even in the biggest oil companies that could help them survive the Fed's inevitable decision to cut back its stimulus efforts -- whether that decision comes today or in the future.

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