Monday, August 8, 2016


The stock market has done pretty well this year.  The S&P 500 Index closed at a record high on several days in July and last Friday, August 5, 2016, closed at 2182.87 up 6.8% for the year and at another record high.  This was of interest to me because as a result my investment in the Vanguard S&P Index ETF (VOO) passed a personal milestone as the fund closed above 200 (at 200.17) for the first time.  I bought this fund at the end of 2012 with some of the proceeds from the forced sale of most of my IBM stock.  This has worked out well for me as the fund is up over 50% while IBM has struggled.  Even with its recent recovery IBM (currently at 163.50) remains well below my selling price (around 190).  Good luck doesn't hurt.

Speaking of luck, the cancer drug, Opdivo, made by Bristol-Meyers Squibb (BMS) recently failed a clinical trial.  Opdivo is a rival to Merck's cancer drug, Keytruda.  As a result BMS fell almost 16% on Friday while MRK was up over 10%.  There is some reason to doubt whether this is really good news for Merck as the drugs are similar and the Opdivo trial probably failed (while a recent Keytruda trial succeeded) because Bristol-Meyers Squibb had aggressively enrolled a diverse group of patients while Merck had prudently limited its trial to the patients most likely to be helped.  So Keytruda may gain share against Opdivo but in a smaller market.  Nevertheless I am glad I own Merck stock and not Bristol-Meyers Squibb stock.    

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