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Stock Market Today: Obamacare Upheld

Volatility in the stock market today is high due to several factors both domestically and abroad.

The Obamacare ruling is the main driver causing uncertainty in the market, followed by the start of the European Union summit today in Brussels.

The Obamacare ruling had been anticipated with such fervor that reporters camped in front of the Supreme Court for days before the decision.

They finally got one - and it may come as a surprise to many.

The controversial mandate that requires everyone to purchase healthcare by 2014 or pay a small fine was upheld. The vote came in at 5-4 with Justices Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas and Alito dissenting.

Chief Justice Roberts said that the mandate is not a valid exercise of Congress's power under the Commerce Clause, but it will survive as a tax.

Republicans had been almost certain that the mandate would be stuck down and President Obama can now breathe a small sigh of relief that his healthcare overhaul has been upheld.

Back to the EU summit, which has been awaited with such pessimism that the yield on Spanish 10-year bonds has risen above 7% again and the euro slipped to a three-week low of $1.24 versus the dollar.

There is an unusual and detrimental air of division and discord among the European leaders heading into the summit. The continent needs to work towards more integration rather than fragmentation if they are to lay down a framework for better fiscal, financial and political union.

U.S. unemployment claims fell slightly from the 392,000 initial claims reported last week to a still alarmingly high number of 386,000 for the week ended June 23. The final estimate for the first quarter's gross domestic product (GDP) came in at the expected 1.9%, but that estimate had already been lowered last week by the U.S. Federal Reserve.

Looking beyond these reports, here are some stocks in the headlines today.

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Investing in Nanotechnology: FEI Co. (Nasdaq: FEIC) is the Top "Picks and Shovels" Play

The word "nanotechnology" gets thrown around a lot but it still remains a fuzzy concept for most people.

From a self-aware, self-assembling grey goo that takes over the world in a Michael Crichton book, to Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL) Nano music player or Tata Motor's (NYSE ADR: TTM) Nano car, it's hard to get a clear picture of what nanotech really is.

But as global World Economic Forum member and emerging tech guru Dr. Tim Harper explains, "Nanotechnology is to the 21st Century what chemistry was to the 20th Century."

Like plastics, computers, and the Internet before it, nanotechnology will change the world in ways that we can't even imagine now. That's how powerful the nano-world will become.

That's why every long-term growth investor needs to consider investing in nanotechnology. In terms of scale, the potential for investors is simply enormous.

That's why one company, FEI Co. (Nasdaq: FEIC) is on my list of "buys" as the top "picks and shovels" play.

The Miracle of Nanotechnology

So what exactly is nanotech?

It's a way of working with objects and materials at the atomic level, one molecule at time.

That means that in the near future, we will be able to custom design structures literally from the ground up, molecule by molecule, creating a quantum leap forward in medicine, materials, electronics, food, and fuels - practically everything we know of.

In fact, one of the biggest sectors where nanotech continues to have a huge impact is in drug development and drug delivery.

Recent nanotech developments include: cancer treatments without chemotherapy or radiation, long-dose treatment of diabetes with a single monthly injection, long-release or on-demand blood pressure medications, and textiles to build skin, bone or organs from you own cells.

Developments like these will invariably lead to big money

A recent report by Cientifica, a leading global emerging technology consulting firm predicts:

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Healthcare Mandate Question: Should the U.S. Government Require Everyone To Buy Health Insurance?

In a year of sweeping overhauls in healthcare, financial reform and tax policies, critics of U.S. President Barack Obama's proposals have called them ineffective, shortsighted and misinformed.

This week, in a case that will likely go all the way to the Supreme Court, a federal District Court judge in Virginia added the term "unconstitutional" to that pointed list.

The provision in question is part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, the U.S. healthcare reform initiative signed into law in March. It requires all Americans, unless exempted for religious or other reasons, to carry health insurance - or to pay a penalty for failing to do so.

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Congressional Spat Over Doctor's Medicare Pay Threatens Obama's Healthcare Reform Effort

A Congressional stalemate over how to stave off a hefty pay cut to doctors treating Medicare patients threatens to undermine President Barack Obama's healthcare reform effort – even as the administration mails out a glossy brochure to reassure seniors the healthcare program is on solid ground. For the third time this year, Democrats and Republicans […]

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Japan's Astellas Pharma Is the Latest Company to Go Global to Dodge Patent Problems

Japan's second-largest drug maker Astellas Pharma, Inc. announced yesterday (Sunday) it would buy U.S. biotech OSI Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (Nasdaq: OSIP) for $4 billion to increase its exposure to the U.S. pharmaceuticals market and build up its struggling pipeline.

The all-cash bid is Astellas' second for the sought-after OSI after a March 1 $3.5 billion offer was rejected. Astellas will pay $57.50 per OSI share, 11% more than the first offer and 55% more than OSI's last closing price before Astellas starting bidding. OSI closed at $59.80 Friday.

OSI's money-making cancer drug Tarceva generated $1.2 billion in sales last year and is projected to bring in $7 billion in revenue through 2020. Astellas wants to build a global cancer-drug business and jointly develop more cancer drugs with OSI.

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Buy, Sell or Hold: Is Pfizer Inc. (NYSE: PFE) the Right Prescription for Your Portfolio?

In 2008, the journal Health Affairs reported that 25% of China's adult population  - about 375 million people - was "overweight" or "obese."

That number is expected to double by 2028, and obesity is just one health issue in a densely polluted nation that finds itself battling a growing list of ailments.

So it's no surprise that China's pharmaceutical market has been surging at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of more than 16% -- the fastest pace in the world, according to research by market-intelligence leader IMS Health Inc. (NYSE: RX). IMS Health estimates that by 2020 the Chinese market for pharmaceuticals will be $110 billion, second only to the United States.

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The U.S. Employment Outlook: Bad For Paychecks, Good For U.S. Stocks

You undoubtedly know by now that the U.S. economy added 164,000 jobs in March. While that was the best number in ages, anyone who looked closely at the payrolls report issued by the U.S. Labor Department would discover that it was actually riddled with problems.

Indeed, the report sends a very clear message: While the March report is consistent with a gradually improving labor market, the numbers hardly convey a sense of an economy that's zooming its way back to health.

Still, as we'll see, this employment scenario could be a good one for U.S. stocks.

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Question of the Week: Do the Pitfalls Outweigh the Promise For the New Healthcare Reform Program?

When U.S. President Barack Obama signed the new healthcare-reform bill into law yesterday (Tuesday), it ended months of political bickering and maneuvering, and began a new chapter in the nation's healthcare saga - one in which the country will feel the effects of this sweeping, costly and controversial policy overhaul.

The fact is that many Americans will have healthcare for the first time ever. Offsetting that bright spot, however, is the reality that the program could add trillions in debt to the country's already burgeoning national debt, further complicating the matter.

Going forward, it will now be left to the pundits, analysts and the healthcare industry to decipher what these provisions really mean for the industry, for individuals, for taxpayers - and even for investors.

But here at Money Morning, we wanted to know what you think about this new law. That's why we made healthcare reform the inaugural topic in our new "Question of the Week" feature.

Money Morning Question of the Week: U.S. President Barack Obama's controversial healthcare proposal is now law. What do you think? How do you feel? Do you think it's a beneficial or harmful move for you as a consumer, as an investor, and as a taxpayer? What do you think it means for our nation's economy?

What follows is a sampling of the enthusiastic and passionate responses that we received. Make sure to also check out next week's "Question of the Week," a query that seeks your thoughts on the growing levels of U.S. debt.

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Healthcare Reform Losers: Companies Providing Retiree Benefits Face Multi-Million Dollar Tax Costs

After sending letters of protest to Congress in the months prior to the healthcare law's approval, U.S. companies are now facing multi-million dollar after-tax hits this year due to a tax provision in the new legislation, labeling them healthcare reform losers instead of winners.

Part of the new healthcare law places a federal income tax on government subsidies given to companies that provide retirees and their spouses with drug benefit plans. The 28% subsidy was created as Medicare Part D, adding a prescription plan for senior citizens to the Medicare Act of 2003. To encourage companies to continue offering retirees a drug plan, the tax-free subsidy reduced companies' costs. Fewer senior citizens then went through Medicare's prescription program - which would have cost taxpayers much more than the subsidy price.

Caterpillar Inc (NYSE: CAT) and Deere & Company (NSYE: DE) are just two of the businesses that fought the new stipulations. The manufacturers estimate the tax will cost them $100 million and $150 million this year, respectively. Other companies who will pay handsomely include AK Steel Corp. (NYSE: AKS) with $31 million in charges, and Honeywell International Inc. (NYSE: HON) with an estimated fee of $42 million.

Consulting firm Towers Watson & Co. (NYSE: TW) estimates these taxes could cost companies about $233 per person receiving drug benefits - a hefty price tag when a company gives benefits to 40,000 retirees, like Caterpillar.

Overall, more than 3,500 companies offer drug benefits to 6.3 million retirees. Although the tax won't be effective until 2011, accounting practices force companies to recognize the fees in the period in which the law is signed. That means the tax could nab $14 billion from corporate profits in a year when companies were hoping to recover from huge losses during the recession.

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We Want to Hear From You: What Do You Think About the New Healthcare Law?

After months of controversy, political bickering and maneuvering, and intense media speculation and scrutiny, this week became a historically significant moment in the annals of U.S. healthcare when U.S. President Barack Obama signed the new healthcare bill into law. Thus begins a new chapter in the healthcare saga, when the country will feel the effects […]

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Drug Companies and Hospitals Get a Boost from Healthcare Reform

After months of trying to predict how the healthcare reform proposals would affect the respective futures of their industries, drug companies and hospitals are optimistic about the prospective long-term profits the final version of the health care reform bill could bring them.

President Barack Obama yesterday (Tuesday) signed the $940 billion health care reform bill with support from pharmaceutical companies and the hospital industry. Both will benefit from a sharp increase in the number of insured customers, as the bill expands healthcare to up to 32 million more people.

While the bill will cost tens of billions of dollars over the next 10 years, the planned reforms create something drug companies and hospitals can't live without: paying consumers.

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Shaky CBO Deficit Projections Help Healthcare Reform Bill Pass House

When the comprehensive healthcare reform bill won approval from the House on Sunday, some of the swing lawmakers were won over by a new Congressional Budget Office (CBO) analysis showing the bill will slash the deficit by over $1.3 trillion over the next 20 years.

But at a time when the U.S. budget is already saddled with hefty doses of red ink, there's a growing debate about whether the new bill will reduce the deficit or evolve into another entitlement program that will expand the country's debt beyond already record levels.

Even though the bill - which President Barack Obama has hailed as the "most significant effort to reduce the deficit since the Balanced Budget Act" of the 1990s - will cost the federal government $940 billion over a ten-year period, the CBO said it will increase revenue and cut other costs by an even greater amount.

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Teva Pharmaceutical Wins Fight in the Generic Drug Market Battle

Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. (Nasdaq: TEVA) will buy sought-after German generic producer Ratiopharm for $4.97 billion, continuing a trend of highly competitive merger-and-acquisition (M&A) activity in the pharmaceutical industry. Competitors have pursued Ratiopharm for nine months because of its position as the second biggest generic producer in Germany. It was put up for sale in […]

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Can Democrats Dislodge the Debate Over Healthcare Reform?

If U.S. President Barack Obama goes ahead with a plan to have Democrats invoke a parliamentary gambit known as "reconciliation" to pass healthcare reform, a little known provision in the budget cycle ensures that Washington politicians will get to the endgame in less than 60 days.

One of the peculiarities of reconciliation is that it is a creation of the 1974 Budget Act and is linked to the annual budget cycle in Congress. It has been used to pass more than 22 tax cuts and deficit reductions over the years.

But the Budget Act specifies that Congress must complete action on its budget resolution by April 15 of each year. Once the budget resolution conference report is adopted by both the House of Representatives and the Senate, its terms govern the remainder of the budget process for that year - meaning no further spending measures can be introduced, including healthcare reform.

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Obama's Targets Insurers with $950 Billion Health Care Reform Plan

Health insurance providers are protesting this week as the government comes a step closer to strengthening its industry regulation by calling for new "common sense" practices.

This latest development in U.S. President Barack Obama's push for health care reform occurred Monday when the White House released a sprawling $950 billion proposal in anticipation of tomorrow's (Thursday's) scheduled summit.

Obama's plan, which combines the respective reform bills of the Senate and the House of Representatives, suggests drastic changes are coming for insurance providers.

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