The broad-based index was buoyed early in the day by a flurry of better-than-expected earnings reports overnight and a jobless-claims figure that was the lowest in the past five years. Fewer jobless claims would signal that more people are getting back to work and that the unemployment picture is improving.
On the flipside, we had the monstrous drag of the S&P 500's largest company by market value, Apple, which shed more than $60 per share on the day. Apple's first-quarter tally was $54.5 billion in revenue and $13.81 in EPS -- both records. However, revenue fell short of Wall Street's estimates, and the higher costs of rolling out multiple new products (the iPhone 5 and iPad Mini) left their mark on Apple's gross margin, which fell to 38.6%, a clean 610 basis points below the year-ago levels. Apple's guidance, which is historically soft, also failed to impress investors.
In spite of this push-and-pull battle, the S&P 500 still managed the tiniest fractional gain imaginable, up 0.01 points (0.00%) to close at 1,494.82.
Don't let the flat close fool you, however, as there were some very large movers to the upside within the S&P 500.
Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX ) shares skyrocketed nearly $44 per share, or 42% higher, after reporting considerably better-than-expected fourth-quarter results. Considering the decline of its DVD business and Amazon.com's presence in streaming, the Street had expected a loss of only $0.13. Instead, Netflix actually earned $0.13 in profit and noted the addition of 2 million domestic streaming subscribers and 1.8 million international subscribers. If you think, though, that I've given up on my Netflix pessimis,m you'd be sorely mistaken. My Foolish colleague Anders Bylund makes a strong case for the Netflix bulls, but I continue to point to its declining DVD business, its mounting losses overseas, and Amazon's superior cash position as content costs rise as reasons to count your blessings and run at these levels.
For the second time in two weeks, I get to highlight application delivery networking equipment maker F5 Networks (NASDAQ: FFIV ) for being a model company. This time it's to highlight F5's first-quarter results and upcoming outlook. For the reported quarter, F5 actually fell $0.01 shy of EPS estimates because of a slowdown in U.S. government spending. The "pop" came from F5's guidance, which points to a plethora of new products adding to its bottom-line results over the next two quarters. On the heels of these results, Citigroup raised its price target on F5 to $125 from $105, and the stock finished 4.5% higher on the day.
Finally, home-goods retailer Bed Bath & Beyond (NASDAQ: BBBY ) rallied better than 4% after receiving an upgrade from Oppenheimer analyst Brian Nagel, who noted that Bed Bath & Beyond's recent sales and profit issues were temporary and easily solved by increases in internal spending, and not indicative of a problem with the business model itself. Nagel boosted his firm's rating to "outperform" from "perform" on the company. As usual, I would take any analyst upgrades or downgrades with a grain of salt and would highly encourage any investors thinking about buying into Bed Bath & Beyond, or any retailer tied intrinsically to the housing industry, to wait for evidence of a turnaround before getting their feet wet.
Is this how Apple's dominance dies?
There's no doubt that Apple is at the center of technology's largest revolution ever and that longtime shareholders have been handsomely rewarded, with more than 1,000% gains. However, there is a debate raging as to whether Apple remains a buy. The Motley Fool's senior technology analyst and managing bureau chief, Eric Bleeker, is prepared to fill you in on both reasons to buy and reasons to sell Apple, and what opportunities are left for the company (and, more importantly, your portfolio) going forward. To get instant access to his latest thinking on Apple, simply click here now.