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Economic strength and strong earnings add up to a powerful combination for the financial markets, and today, it proved too powerful a combination for the stock market to resist. With new gains reported from the housing industry, and signs of improvement on the employment front, optimism that the economy may finally start to fire up encouraged investors to bid the broader market up to new five-year highs. The Dow Jones Industrials (DJINDICES: ^DJI ) gave up some of its gains near the close, but still finished up 85 points.
But on the earnings front, some stocks weren't able to participate in the rally. Within the Dow, Bank of America (NYSE: BAC ) plunged more than 4%, after reporting earnings this morning. Thanks to a whopping $4.7 billion in settlements with Fannie Mae and banking regulators, B of A was just barely able to scrape up a profit of $0.03 per share. Given how far short that fell of results from other banks earlier this week, it's not surprising that investors were disappointed, especially after the stock more than doubled in 2012 in anticipation of a stronger recovery.
Elsewhere, Leap Wireless (NASDAQ: LEAP ) fell nearly 7%, after negative comments from analysts at Jefferies. The analyst report said that the prepaid wireless business faces huge new competitive pressures from traditional postpaid providers, especially as high-end smartphones become available at little upfront cost under two-year contracts. Moreover, with efforts to make the most of already available spectrum, it's unclear whether Leap can monetize its spectrum holdings, which have constituted a significant part of its overall value. Leap shares have been volatile, as different analysts have weighed in on both sides of this issue.
Finally, weight-loss drug maker VIVUS (NASDAQ: VVUS ) fell 4%, after it got downgraded by analysts at Brean Capital. Although the company issued a report on shipments of its Qsymia drug that led to a 10% gain for the shares earlier this month, it's still very early, and VIVUS will have to continue to work hard to encourage adoption by doctors before rival Arena Pharmaceuticals' (NASDAQ: ARNA ) Belviq drug gets approval and starts competing. For its part, Arena finished unchanged, after soaring as much as 3.5% earlier in the day, on optimism about the news. The fact is that the potential market for obesity drugs is big enough that both players could succeed; but VIVUS definitely should make the most of its first-mover advantage.
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