Dow Unfazed by Government Shutdown

The government's budget standoff doesn't seem to be bothering markets by late morning, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 both up since markets opened.

The partial government shutdown is affecting some planned-for announcements today, with the U.S. Census Bureau failing to deliver construction spending data at midmorning. More important, the Labor Department has given a heads-up that it may not be announcing monthly jobs data on Friday, either, if the shutdown persists through the end of the week.

Dow stocks in the news
Some Dow components are making some moves today, with Merck up more than 2% this morning. The big pharmaceutical company just announced a major corporate shake-up, featuring the goal of slicing $2.5 billion in expenses from its balance sheet by the end of 2015. This will include cutting 8,500 jobs, out of a current workforce of 81,000, as well as slashing administrative expenses -- music, it seems, to investors' ears.

UnitedHealth has risen more than 1.5% today, as health insurance exchanges open up for business under the President's Affordable Care Act. Reuters reports that there were some glitches involved in the first few hours, as overwhelming Internet traffic appeared to be crashing some of the government sites in many states. Despite the initial bumps in the road, investors are standing by the big health insurer, obviously not surprised by the opening-day fumbles.

In the banking sector, JPMorgan Chase is beginning to claw its way into the green, even as CEO Jamie Dimon and U.S. regulators continue to hem and haw over a multibillion-dollar settlement that will put paid to a slew of allegations against the bank in regard to past sales of crummy mortgage securities. Sore points in the negotiations appear to be the allocation of blame, which Dimon would like to see heaped upon Washington Mutual and Bear Stearns, rather than JPMorgan. Also at issue is how much credit to give to each government entity involved in the settlement.

In the meantime, the talks aren't holding back the big bank, which has just been named as the advisor in a big acquisition by Vornado Realty Trust, as well as one of the principals in the planned IPO of The Container Store.

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Fool contributor Amanda Alix has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends UnitedHealth Group. The Motley Fool owns shares of JPMorgan Chase. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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