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Yesterday, the broad-based S&P 500 (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC ) closed at highs not seen since late 2007. Today, data released by the U.S. government showed that the U.S. GDP contracted by 0.1% in the fourth quarter -- its first contraction since the great recession of 2009. Personally, I'm not shocked, and actually called for at least one quarter of negative GDP growth in my 2013 predictions last month.
However, as the Fool's Morgan Housel notes, consumer spending was up 1.5% in the fourth-quarter and, as the primary driver of GDP, that could signal this report is anything but bad news. Nonetheless, negative GDP growth was all investors needed to see today to send the S&P 500 decisively lower. For the day, the S&P finished lower by 5.88 points (-0.39%), to close at 1,501.96.
As is usually the story with even modestly down days, there were quite a few rays of sunshine. Here's a look at three notable gainers amid the gloom.
The big winner of the day was pressure-sensitive materials and label maker Avery Dennison (NYSE: AVY ) , up better than 6%. The company announced that it agreed to sell two of its office products units for $500 million to CCL Industries. The deal comes a few months after 3M (NYSE: MMM ) was forced to walk away from a $550 million all-cash purchase of these same two units because it would have given 3M about 80% of the label supply market, and it's unlikely the Justice Department would have ever approved the deal because of antitrust concerns. For Avery, it gives the company ample working capital to pursue other ventures, and further centralizes its business focus on its pressure-sensitive materials segment.
Oil and natural gas driller Chesapeake Energy (NYSE: CHK ) shot out of the gate this morning, after highly troubled CEO Aubrey McClendon announced his retirement, effective as of April 1. The move is highly welcome from a shareholders perspective, as McClendon's antics have become an unwelcome distraction for Chesapeake as it continues to look for ways to sell assets, reduce its debt, and shore up its capital position. Chesapeake's focus on its liquid assets and its vast resources should put it in prime territory for a rebound; the removal of McClendon as CEO is only the icing on the cake. It may indeed be a great year for Chesapeake after all! Shares advanced 6% on the day.
Finally, Amazon.com (NASDAQ: AMZN ) proved, once again, that it's never wise to bet against this online marketplace behemoth around earnings time, by gaining nearly 5%. Although Amazon missed on some of Wall Street's key metrics, it still reported a 22% increase in fourth-quarter sales, to $21.27 billion, and a 56% increase in operating income, despite a decrease in net income when all was said and done. It's really hard to argue against Amazon's niche position in e-tailing, and its growing presence in the cloud and in streaming content, but even I'm beginning to wonder when CEO Jeff Bezos is ever going to focus on profitability.
Is this company now in the clear?
Energy investors would be hard-pressed to find another company trading at a deeper discount than Chesapeake Energy. Its share price depreciated after negative news surfaced concerning the company's management and spiraling debt picture. While these issues still persist, giant steps have been taken to help mitigate the problems. To learn more about Chesapeake and its enormous potential, you're invited to check out The Motley Fool's brand new premium report on the company. Simply click here now to access your copy and, as an added bonus, you'll receive a full year of key updates and expert guidance as news continues to develop.