William Shakespeare famously quipped, "All the world's a stage/And all the men and women merely players." (Yes, we read classic literature here at the Fool.) Given how much individual stocks are being tossed around by broader market factors, Shakespeare's theory seems spot-on for investors. Case in point: The S&P 500 (INDEX: ^GSPC ) climbed 0.48% today, lifted primarily by a flurry of positive housing reports, yet the daily swings of many individual stocks remain subject to the looming uncertainty around Europe, Obamacare, and consumer confidence, which we found out today is down for the fourth consecutive month.
Building a housing rebound?
Despite recent weakness in the U.S., a slowdown in certain emerging markets, and Europe's ongoing tragedy, yesterday's housing data provided a much-needed reason for optimism. The Department of Commerce reported that new home sales had reached a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 369,000, the best number since April 2010. Today, an S&P/Case-Shiller housing survey reported an April increase in housing prices in 19 of 20 surveyed cities, amid other news that overall housing prices had fallen at a less-than-predicted rate. As a result, homebuilder PulteGroup (NYSE: PHM ) gained 5.63%, while competitor Lennar managed 2.69%.
A new chapter in education?
On the education front, a few items emerged with rather mixed results. A federal report topped expectations in its evaluations, saying that 95% of the evaluated for-profit education programs met all three performance requirements. The big surprise came from such a high passage rate on the federal government's new gainful-employment regulation, which analysts viewed with some pessimism. Apollo Group (Nasdaq: APOL ) became the big winner on the day, posting 10.26% gains behind that report and its own earnings summary. Although its Q3 earnings fell 8.3% when compared with FY 2011, the owner of the University of Phoenix beat market expectations. Industry peers Devry, Grand Canyon, and Strayer all gained as well, while Corinthian Colleges fell 8.63% after the data showed poor failure rates at a couple of its schools.
Other stocks making waves
A few big names did perform well on their own. Shares of Rupert Murdoch's NewsCorp (Nasdaq: NWSA ) rose 8.51% on news that the company's plans to divide into two separate, publicly traded companies is nearing completion. Murdoch appears intent on splitting the more-profitable entertainment arm from the publishing arm, the latter of which found itself in the middle of a phone hacking scandal over the past two years. Meanwhile, Best Buy (NYSE: BBY ) surged 4.65% after a handful of positive snippets. The company announced today that it will launch its Best Buy mobile brand and store format in five China locations, but it also found itself singled out by MediaReport as one of the top retailers with a strong social media presence, alongside its Minnesota-based neighbor Target.
That's all for the daily roundup on the market's notable movers. Make sure to add these companies to your free My Watchlist feature to get up to date analysis whenever news breaks. Add PulteGroup to My Watchlist.