Investors dodged a bullet -- for now. The week ended with a holiday for the markets, but the government went ahead and announced some pretty lackluster March employment numbers on Friday. Thanks to a small trading window, S&P 500 futures showed that we're probably in line for a drop of more than 1% on Monday. But let's not count our chickens before they've been pastel painted like Easter eggs -- after all, investors have a three-day weekend to temper their pessimism.
By the close of trading on Thursday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI ) had shed 1.1% for the week, while the broader Russell 3000 dropped 0.8%. Though the market didn't fare well broadly, some individual stocks tacked on some very impressive gains.
The week's big winners
Avon Products' (NYSE: AVP ) was looking beautiful this week. That's right, the age-old -- or is it just old? -- name in cosmetics caught a huge tailwind this week after rival Coty offered to buy Avon for roughly $10 billion. In an impressive show of chutzpah, Avon told Coty to take a hike. Management believes the company is worth more and that Coty was trying to swoop in with a low offer.
So if it doesn't look as if Coty is going to get to buy Avon, then why did shares surge? Easy: Because if Coty was willing to pay $10 billion -- or about $23.50 per share -- then investors may start to look at that offer as an effective floor on Avon's price tag.
Meanwhile, with so much nail-biting going on over at Best Buy, it should be no surprise that investors might overlook small-fry competitor Conn's. But after just one whiff of the consumer-electronics and appliance retailer's fourth-quarter numbers, investors quickly realized that they may be missing the boat. For the company's final fiscal quarter, it earned $0.34 per share, easily beating Wall Street's average estimate of $0.29. If that's not enough, management also jacked up fiscal 2013 guidance, from a range of $1.05 to $1.15 to a range of $1.20 to $1.30.
Top 3 Performing Russell 3000 Companies
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Source: S&P Capital IQ. Weekly price change is March 30-April 5. Includes only companies with a market cap of $250 million or greater.
Also among the week's top performers were Theravance (Nasdaq: THRX ) and Bio-Rad (NYSE: BIO ) .
Theravance got a big boost when megaton partner GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE: GSK ) upped its stake in the biotech, investing another $213 million to bring its ownership to nearly 27%. The two companies are working together on a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) treatment called Relovair, which Glaxo hopes will be a sequel to its multibillion-dollar blockbuster Advair. According to Thomson Reuters Pharma, forecasts for Relovair sales have it raking in almost $1.5 billion by 2016. And what of investors' excitement about Theravance's stock this week? Not only will the cash infusion help the unprofitable drug developer continue forward with its work, but the investment may also be seen as a significant additional vote of confidence by Glaxo.
Fellow health-care industry representative Bio-Rad, on the other hand, watched its stock surge on some dour news. Last weekend, David Schwartz, the company's chairman and co-founder, passed away. His death fueled speculation that the company -- which is heavily owned by insiders -- may now look to sell itself. In my book, though, speculation like that is rarely -- if ever -- a good reason to buy.
By the end of the holiday-shortened week, Theravance had added 18%, while Bio-Rad had ticked up by 8%.
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