A slight jog higher in weekly jobless claims, to 371,000, wasn't enough to curb a very optimistic group of investors from sending the broad-based S&P 500 (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC ) to a five-year high.
Despite the rise in jobless claims -- not uncommon this time of year, as retailers layoff seasonal hires -- the ratio of new jobs to claims is remaining steady, signaling to most investors that the job market is slowly improving. Tack on the simple fact that earnings season has begun without any major negative surprises, and that President Obama announced his new nominee for Treasury Secretary, Jack Lew, his previous Chief of Staff and close ally, and you can see why investors see the slight possibility for less Congressional gridlock, and continued growth in the U.S. economy.
On the day, the S&P 500 ended higher by 11.10 points (0.76%), to finish the day at 1,472.12.
The S&P's best performer today was refiner Tesoro (NYSE: TSO ) which advanced nearly 6%. Part of the news sending shares higher was the decision to shut down a refinery in Hawaii, after failing to sell the property and turn it into a storage terminal. Possibly contributing even more to Tesoro's fantastic day was the disclosure of a position in Tesoro by Dan Loeb's hedge fund, Third Point. The hedge fund opined that Tesoro should be capable of $9 in annual free cash flow per share over costs, and could double from its current levels. Keep in mind this is the same Dan Loeb and Third Point that recently took an 8.24% stake in Herbalife (NYSE: HLF ) , the highly-embattled nutritional products company that's been blasted by noted short-seller Bill Ackman. However, unlike Herbalife, Loeb's analysis of Tesoro is something I can get behind!
Big-box retailer Best Buy (NYSE: BBY ) silenced doubters with a better than 5% advance, after announcing that its online sales have improved in various markets where e-tailer Amazon.com (NASDAQ: AMZN ) now has to collect sales tax. According to Best Buy spokesperson Amy von Walter in a conversation with Reuters, online sales in California, Texas, and Pennsylvania -- three states where Amazon began collecting tax revenue -- have seen a 4% to 6% jump in sales. I'd hardly say this puts Best Buy's online department on great footing, as it still accounts for less than 10% of total sales; but investors clearly haven't given Best Buy nearly enough credit for what could be an amazing turnaround in 2013.
Finally, money transfer giant Western Union (NYSE: WU ) rebounded from yesterday's dismal performance, and moved higher by just shy of 4%. As my Foolish colleague John Divine noted, Western Union was downgraded to "sell" by Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS ) yesterday, on concerns of declining margins. However, Western Union also renewed their business pact for an additional five years with Safeway (NYSE: SWY ) . As part of that agreement, Safeway will offer Western Union money transfers within its grocery stores and, in turn, Safeway will use Western Union's money orders and consumer bill payment services this year and going forward.
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