Merck, Verizon Pace the Dow Friday

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May 11, 2018: Markets opened mixed Thursday as the tech heavy Nasdaq started low, bounced higher, then dipped again on its way to a lower close. The Dow and the S&P 500 also made brief appearances in the red zone, but look to be on course to close with small gains. The preliminary reading on consumer sentiment came in unchanged from the April reading and inline with expectations. Tech stocks keep a lid on equities prices while 10-year Treasuries moved below 3%.

WTI crude oil for June delivery settled at $70.70 a barrel, down 0.9% for the day but up about 1.4% for the week. June gold dropped about 0.1% on the day to settle at $1,320.70 and closed the week up about 0.5%.  Equities were headed for a mixed close about 10 minutes before the bell as the Dow traded up 0.30% for the day, the S&P 500 traded up 0.10%, and the Nasdaq Composite traded down 0.10%.

Bitcoin futures (XBTK8) for May delivery traded at $8,660, down nearly 5% on the CBOE after opening at $9,175 this morning. The trading range today was $8,505 to $9,175.

The Dow stock posting the largest daily percentage gain ahead of the close Friday was Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) which traded up 2.99% at $48.61. The stock’s 52-week range is $42.80 to $54.77. Volume was about equal to the daily average of around 16.3 million. The company said today that it is repurchasing $2.5 billion in floating rate notes due in 2025.

Merck & Co. Inc. (NYSE: MRK) traded up 2.92% at $59.75. The stock’s 52-week range is $52.83 to $66.41. Volume was about 30% below the daily average of around 11.8 million shares. The president’s announcement on how he proposes to control drug costs sent drug stocks higher. Go figure.

UnitedHealth Group Inc. (NYSE: UNH) traded up 2.08% at $238.58. The stock’s 52-week range is $166.65 to $250.79. Volume was about 35% below the daily average of around 3.5 million shares. Another healthcare provider getting some help from Trump today.

Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) traded up 1.75% at $127.54 in a 52-week range of $121.28 to $148.32. Volume was about 35% below the daily average of 6.9 million. The company had no specific news, and you know the rest.

Of the Dow stocks, 17 are on track to close higher Friday and 13 are set to close lower.