Congress' game of "kick the can" is swinging into high gear with the House of Representatives passing a bill that would extend the debt ceiling and allow the government to borrow money for an additional four months. The bill, which has moved to the Senate for debate, will likely pass and yet another serious issue will have been swept under the rug for the time being. If Congress had kids, we'd declare it an unfit parent, but the broad-based S&P 500 (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC ) appears to be enjoying the potential for at least a few months of debt ceiling clarity.
For the day, the S&P 500 ended 2.25 points (0.15%) higher, to close at 1,494.81, another five-year high.
Earnings are also the big story. We're entering the heart of earnings season and companies are rising and fall both before, and after, their earnings results. Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX ) , for instance, provided a nice boost to the overall market by rallying better than 5%, even though it didn't even report its fourth-quarter results until after the bell today. Investors are hopeful that a big content deal announced with Disney will get Netflix's bottom-line back on track, but I'm not nearly as convinced.
Despite the big jump in Netflix, there were three other big earnings reports within the S&P 500 that upstaged its move.
Advanced Micro Devices (NYSE: AMD ) surprised everyone by reporting better-than-expected fourth-quarter results and soaring 11.4%. Don't get me wrong. It was still an atrocious quarter as revenue fell to $1.16 billion from $1.69 billion a year ago and it lost an adjusted $0.14. Still, this was much better than the $1.15 billion and $0.21 loss Wall Street had expected. Another head-scratcher was AMD's warning that its current quarter revenue may fall short of estimates. Investors, however, seemed impressed with its aggressive push into tablets, where even Intel has very little, if any, presence. I recently pegged AMD as an intriguing turnaround candidate, and, while this wasn't a banner quarter, it could be the start of a genuine turnaround.
Robotic surgical device maker Intuitive Surgical (NASDAQ: ISRG ) also wowed Wall Street and silenced short-selling specialist and Intuitive critic Citron Research by recording its 15th straight earnings beat. For the quarter, revenue rose 23% to $609.3 million as system sales advanced 18% and instrument and accessories revenue soared 29%. Net income popped a more subtle 16% to $4.25 per share. Still, these figures handily topped the $4.03 in EPS and $585.7 million the Street anticipated. Furthermore, Intuitive forecast procedure growth of 20% to 23% in 2013. I believe this company has made it crystal clear that as the undisputed leader in soft tissue robotic surgeries, it'll continue to command incredible pricing power and grow healthfully in the double digits. Shares finished higher by 9.4% after rising as much as 11.3% during the day.
Finally, search giant Google (NASDAQ: GOOGL ) definitely "felt lucky," advancing 5.5% following its fourth-quarter results. It reported a 19% increase in ad revenue to $12.1 billion from the year-ago period and trudged higher in the EPS column, reporting a profit of $8.62 vs. $8.22 last year. Unfortunately, some of the caveats that have kept me from liking Google still remain, including a 6% decline in overall ad prices year over year and a bigger push from advertisers toward mobile platforms, where Google retains has far less market share and clout. My Foolish colleagues Travis Hoium and Alex Planes have correctly predicted Google's ascent thus far, but I'll stick by my skepticism in spite of today's rally.
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