Wall Street investors punished the broad-based S&P 500 (INDEX: ^GSPC ) for a second straight session as fears of a looming standoff between Democrats and Republicans over a much-needed U.S. debt ceiling hike weighed heavily.
Mixed spending news from November, which showed that consumers added another $16 billion in debt since October, bodes well for near-term GDP growth since it's very much driven by consumer spending. However, the record $2.77 trillion in total consumer debts could portend serious long-term problems, considering most Americans' poor saving habits.
On the day, the S&P 500 dipped 4.74 points (-0.32%) to finish the day at 1,457.15.
Just as we saw yesterday, though, it wasn't doom and gloom for every company in the S&P 500. Let's take a look at a few rays of sunshine on this modestly down day.
With the biggest health-care conference of the year currently under way in San Francisco, Calif., it really shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone that health-care companies are among the S&P 500's top performers.
Celgene (Nasdaq: CELG ) topped the charts for a second straight day, advancing another 6.6% following an upgrade from RBC Capital to "outperform" from "sector perform" and a price target boost from $90 to $100. If you recall, Celgene's presentation yesterday stole the show, with CEO Robert Hugin predicting that his company can organically double revenue and boost profits nearly threefold from current levels by 2017. Additional indications gained by its blockbuster Abraxane, as well as countless promising pipeline candidates, make this very achievable in my opinion.
Boston Scientific (NYSE: BSX ) also presented at the JPMorgan Healthcare Conference today, and shareholders appear to like the direction the medical device maker is headed, given the 2.3% advance in its share price. The Food and Drug Administration released a report in November claiming that rival St. Jude Medical's (NYSE: STJ ) defibrillator leads, known as Durata, were inadequate. Although I'd rather see Boston Scientific making big gains because physicians are choosing its products over its peers, this could, nonetheless, be the break needed to get back to consistent profitability.
Stepping outside of the health-care arena, oil and gas production company Occidental Petroleum (NYSE: OXY ) had a great day, rising 2.3% after outlining a plan to cut costs and laying out its early progress to investors. Occidental planned to reduce its rig count from 64 last year to 55 this year while still boosting its oil output (a roundabout way of saying it's cutting way back on natural gas drilling). Early estimates peg Occidental's total savings at $300 million this year and up to $450 million in the following year in relation to 2012.
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