Dow Today: Merck (MRK) Leads The Day Higher, Caterpillar (CAT) Lags

The Dow Jones Industrial Average ( ^DJI) is trading down 32.0 points (-0.2%) at 12,945 as of Monday, Mar 5, 2012, 9:35 a.m. ET. During this time, 23.9 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 837 issues advancing vs. 1,785 declining with 189 unchanged.

The Dow component leading the way higher looks to be Merck (NYSE: MRK), which is sporting a 20-cent gain (+0.5%) bringing the stock to $38.13. Volume for Merck currently sits at 434,733 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 0.6% year to date as of Friday'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 18.7, 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, largely solid financial position with reasonable debt levels by most measures and expanding profit margins. We feel these strengths outweigh the fact that the company shows weak operating cash flow.

Holding back the Dow today is Caterpillar (NYSE: CAT), which is lagging the broader Dow index with a $1.24 decline (-1.1%) bringing the stock to $111.25. This single loss is lowering the Dow Jones Industrial Average by 9.38 points or roughly accounting for 29.3% of the Dow's overall loss. Volume for Caterpillar currently sits at 354,140 shares traded vs. an average daily trading volume of 7.8 million shares.

Caterpillar has a market cap of $68.73 billion and is part of the industrial goods sector and industrial industry. Shares are up 24.2% year to date as of Friday's close. The stock's dividend yield sits at 1.6%.

Caterpillar Inc. manufactures and sells construction and mining equipment, diesel and natural gas engines, industrial gas turbines, and diesel-electric locomotives worldwide. The company has a P/E ratio of 15.3, below the average industrial industry P/E ratio of 16.3 and below the S&P 500 P/E ratio of 17.7.

TheStreet Ratings rates Caterpillar as a buy. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its robust revenue growth, notable return on equity, solid stock price performance, impressive record of earnings per share growth and compelling growth in net income. We feel these strengths outweigh the fact that the company has had generally poor debt management on most measures that we evaluated.

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