Dow Today: Bank Of America Corporation (BAC) Leads The Day Higher, Merck (MRK) Lags

The Dow Jones Industrial Average ( ^DJI) is trading up 52 points (+0.4%) at 13,004 as of Thursday, Mar 1, 2012, 9:35 a.m. ET. During this time, 36.6 million shares of the 30 Dow components have changed hands vs. an average daily trading volume of 818.6 million. The NYSE advances/declines ratio sits at 2,061 issues advancing vs. 614 declining with 123 unchanged.

The Dow component leading the way higher looks to be Bank of America Corporation (NYSE: BAC), which is sporting a 14-cent gain (+1.8%) bringing the stock to $8.11. This single gain is lifting the Dow Jones Industrial Average by 1.06 points or roughly accounting for 2% of the Dow's overall gain. Volume for Bank of America Corporation currently sits at 11.9 million shares traded vs. an average daily trading volume of 271.9 million shares.

Bank of America Corporation has a market cap of $73.89 billion and is part of the financial sector and banking industry. Shares are up 43.3% year to date as of Wednesday's close. The stock's dividend yield sits at 0.5%.

Bank of America Corporation, through its subsidiaries, provides banking and financial services to individuals, small- and middle-market businesses, corporations, and governments primarily in the United States and internationally. The company has a P/E ratio of 25.4, below the average banking industry P/E ratio of 729 and above the S&P 500 P/E ratio of 17.7.

TheStreet Ratings rates Bank of America Corporation as a hold. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its revenue growth, impressive record of earnings per share growth and compelling growth in net income. However, as a counter to these strengths, we also find weaknesses including generally poor debt management and a generally disappointing performance in the stock itself.

Holding back the Dow today is Merck (NYSE: MRK), which is lagging the broader Dow index with a 10-cent decline (-0.3%) bringing the stock to $38.07. Volume for Merck currently sits at 985,174 shares traded vs. an average daily trading volume of 16.2 million shares.

Merck has a market cap of $118.2 billion and is part of the health care sector and drugs industry. Shares are up 1.2% year to date as of Wednesday's close. The stock's dividend yield sits at 4.4%.

Merck & Co., Inc. provides various health solutions through its prescription medicines, vaccines, biologic therapies, animal health, and consumer care products. The company has a P/E ratio of 19, below the average drugs industry P/E ratio of 28.1 and above the S&P 500 P/E ratio of 17.7.

TheStreet Ratings rates Merck as a buy. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its impressive record of earnings per share growth, compelling growth in net income, revenue growth, solid stock price performance and expanding profit margins. Although no company is perfect, currently we do not see any significant weaknesses which are likely to detract from the generally positive outlook.

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