Market Minute: Merck, Pfizer Beat Earnings Forecasts; Hospital Giants Merge


Drug giants Pfizer and Merck grab the earnings spotlight. Those stocks and more are what's in business news Tuesday.

The Dow industrials (^DJI) fell 36 points Monday, the S&P 500 (^GPSC) lost 6 and the Nasdaq (^IXIC) fell 14.

Pfizer's (PFE) operating profit and revenue edged lower, but still beat expectations. The company has been coping for several years with the loss of patent rights on the top-selling cholesterol drug Lipitor, and sales of Lipitor tumbled 55 percent in the latest period. Pfizer also says it will reorganize, a move some analysts say could lead to another spinoff.

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Matt Rourke/AP

Rival drugmaker Merck (MRK) reports net edged past Wall Street expectations, but revenue was a bit light. Sales of several key drugs fell as it too struggles with the expiration of patents.

After the closing bell we'll hear from biotech leader Amgen (AMGN).

Community Health Systems (CYH) has agreed to buy Health Management Associates (HMA) for $3.9 billion. Both companies operate for-profit hospitals, mostly in smaller cities and rural areas.

Herbalife's (HLF) net easily beat expectations. The nutrition supplement company has been at the center of a high-profile battle between some big-time investors during the past year, with one hedge fund manager claiming the company is run like a Ponzi scheme, and he's been betting against its stock. So far, he's lost more than $200 million on that bet. On the other hand, Carl Icahn has made a cool quarter of a billion by backing the company.

AIG (AIG) is getting out of the retail banking business. The company says it will return deposits because of limits placed on insurance companies under the Dodd-Frank law. Allstate Group (ALL), MetLife (MET) and Hartford Financial Services (HIG) have already backed away from retail banking.

JPMorgan Chase (JPM) reportedly has agreed to pay $400 million to $500 million to settle federal charges that it manipulated the power markets in California and other states in 2010 and 2011.

On the economic front, the Federal Reserve begins a two-day policy meeting. Everyone will be looking for clues about when and how it will taper down on its massive bond-buying program.

-Produced by Drew Trachtenberg.