The stock market opened down on Tuesday morning, led lower by concerns that trade negotiations between the U.S. and China might not be going as well as investors had hoped. As of 10:30 a.m. EDT, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI) was down 71 points to 27,150. The S&P 500 (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC) fell 11 points to 3,010, and the Nasdaq Composite (NASDAQINDEX: ^IXIC) gave up 36 points to 8,257.
Despite the pressure on the broader market, some good news on the earnings front came through. Procter & Gamble (NYSE: PG) and Merck (NYSE: MRK) both saw gains after releasing their latest results, and their performance shows that there are pockets of strength even as concerns about economic conditions start to ramp up.
Procter & Gamble sees strong sales growth
Shares of Procter & Gamble jumped 4% after the consumer products giant reported its fiscal fourth-quarter financial results. The company managed to post organic sales growth of 7% -- a pace that's been extremely difficult for such a large player in the space to achieve lately.
Image source: Procter & Gamble.
P&G said that total revenue increased 4% compared to prior-year levels, even with the company facing a 4-percentage-point headwind from the strong U.S. dollar. Organic growth came in part from a 3% rise in shipment volumes and in part from Procter & Gamble using its pricing power to boost its pricing by 3 percentage points.
Yet the consumer giant also pulled some other levers to produce growth. The company has tried to emphasize sales of premium brands like its SK-II high-end skin care line, and P&G's results showed favorable shifts in product mix that suggest that its strategy is working.
Many headlines discussing Procter & Gamble will focus on a writedown of the Gillette business, which led the company to post a loss as reported under generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP). However, P&G looks like it's doing well overall, and its efforts to try to restart its growth engines look strong as it moves into a new fiscal year.
Merck looks healthy
Elsewhere, Merck saw its stock climb more than 2%. The drugmaker reported strong second-quarter financial results, buoyed largely by its oncology and human health vaccines businesses.
Overall, Merck's revenue rose 12% from year-ago levels, powered higher by a 58% jump in sales of cancer-fighter Keytruda. Greater adoption of the human papillomavirus vaccine Gardasil also contributed to the top-line gains, helping to boost Merck's overall vaccine-related revenue by 33% year over year.
CEO Ken Frazier was upbeat about Merck's performance and its prospects. Attributing the gains to "our science-led strategy and execution across our key growth pillars," Frazier said that "we remain confident that our innovative products and significant pipeline opportunities will continue to deliver strong results."
Drug stocks like Merck haven't been among the top performers in the Dow Jones Industrial Average during 2019, as the healthcare industry has faced increasing scrutiny from Washington concerning its drug pricing practices. Yet Merck is still trying to come up with new treatments to help patients and to make the most of drugs already on the market. That strategy has been a winning one over the long haul, and it's likely to be effective no matter what happens with lawmakers trying to implement new healthcare reform efforts.
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