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The September jobs report may not be the most jaw-dropping growth we’ve ever seen at 114,000 jobs added, but the addition of 873,000 people who rejoined, or sought to rejoin, the labor force helped push the unemployment rate down to 7.8%, a 44-month low. On top of unemployment rates falling, thanks to a push of newly-encouraged workers, upside revisions were made to both August and July’s employment figures, which allude to a healthier labor market than some had originally expected. However, even this wasn't enough to push the S&P 500 (INDEX: ^GSPC ) into positive territory on the day, with the index ending down by 0.47 points (-0.03%), to 1,460.93. Let’s take a closer look at some of the companies most directly responsible for influencing the S&P 500’s movements today.
Beauty products supplier Avon Products (NYSE: AVP ) had one of its best days in months following an announcement that chairman and former CEO, Andrea Jung, would be stepping down at the end of the year. After years of underperforming its peers, most investors, including myself, found it odd that Jung chose to remain on board in a chairman’s role. However, with Jung and Avon finally making a clean break, perhaps the company can once again focus on reinvigorating growth.
Glass container maker Owens-Illinois (NYSE: OI ) , not known for larger moves, also found its shares up nicely today following an upgrade from Goldman Sachs to "buy" from "neutral," with a price target boost to $28 from $20. The new price target implies nearly 40% additional upside to the stock. The covering analyst noted Owens-Illinois’ commitment to lowering its debt through free cash flow as the main reason behind his positive comments.
Discount retailer Dollar Tree (Nasdaq: DLTR ) also caught a case of the upgrade bug. Credit Suisse upgraded the company to "outperform" from "neutral," and set a $55 price target, implying additional upside of 12%. Credit Suisse noted that Dollar Tree’s highly-differentiated products and growth prospects separate it from its peers and should drive its share price higher.
The disaster du jour of the day goes to solar panel maker First Solar (Nasdaq: FSLR ) , which fell like a rock, when an analyst at Avian Securities downgraded the company to "negative" from "positive," citing panel reliability issues as the reason for the downgrade. Specifically, solar panels produced between October 2008 and June 2009 may have loose core plates on the back, which could affect the wiring and lead to fires or potential electric shock. If this proves accurate, it would mark the second time that First Solar has had panel reliability issues since the beginning of the year.
Lights out for First Solar?
Are today’s analyst comments on First Solar a genuine cause for concern, or should they be taken with a grain of salt? Find out the answer to this question, and much more, by getting your copy of our latest premium research report on First Solar. Packed with in-depth and unbiased research on the opportunities and pitfalls facing First Solar -- and complete with a year of regular updates-- this report will give you the tools needed to make smart long-term investing decisions. Click here to get your copy of this report today.