Today was a stark reminder that the market can't go up every day. Plenty of news took center stage to drive the markets lower, including a negative earnings report in the housing sector from Toll Brothers (NYSE: TOL ) , as well as the release of the Federal Reserve's minutes from its recent meeting.
Starting in reverse, the Fed minutes suggested that it may have to slow its purchase of assets, or stop them altogether, even before unemployment gets down to its previously targeted level of 6.5%. Logistically, this shouldn't be surprising, as we knew its $85 billion in monthly Treasuries and mortgage bonds couldn't continue forever, but it could mean an end to record-low lending rates, which has investors spooked.
In the housing sector, homebuilders have been crushing estimates left and right -- but apparently Toll Brothers didn't get that memo. The company's first-quarter profit of $0.03 and net revenue of $424.6 million fell well short of the $0.10 in EPS and $502.2 million the Street had expected and sent the entire sector down the foxhole for at least one day.
All told, the broad-based S&P 500 (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC ) suffered one of its worst losses in months, down 18.99 (-1.24%), to close at 1,511.95. Despite the loss, three companies still managed to shine on an undeniably dismal day.
Today's big "winner" was troubled retailer J.C. Penney (NYSE: JCP ) , which jumped 3% on news that it and Macy's are getting ready to go head-to-head in a New York courtroom over the right to sell Martha Stewart's merchandise. J.C. Penney's announced, as part of its turnaround plan, that it'd be placing Martha Stewart shops within its stores and took a 16.6% stake in Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. Macy's, however, claims that certain items of Martha Stewart's product line, which Penney plans to sell, are under an exclusive pact signed with Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia in 2007. With Martha Stewart's products in generally high demand, the lawsuit has big implications for all three parties involved.
Mining-equipment manufacturer Joy Global (NYSE: JOY ) was another solid gainer, rising 2.7%, just a day after rumors swirled that the company could be a takeover target. Joy has struggled in recent quarters as demand from China has ebbed and European weakness has sapped demand in other markets. However, stabilizing coal prices, as well as a $156 billion infrastructure bill in China could change all that. Being a realist, I don't anticipate a complete 180 from Joy Global in 2013, but its prospects are definitely improving.
Finally, energy-drink maker Monster Beverage (NASDAQ: MNST ) advanced 2%. While no specific company news drove the stock higher, it is scheduled to report its earnings results in a week, and rumors have been swirling here as well that Monster could be a buyout candidate. Large domestic and international beverage companies are actively searching for big growth opportunities, and few beverage lines aside from energy drinks have provided such rapid growth prospects. I'm still concerned about the potential for increased regulations on the energy-drink industry down the road, so I'm keeping my distance, but that shouldn't stop investors from digging more deeply into the stock.
Can J.C. Penney turn things around?
J.C. Penney has been a train wreck whose comeback always seems just around the next earnings corner, but people are beginning to doubt whether CEO Ron Johnson can weave the same magic that he did at Apple. Investors wondering whether J.C. Penney is a buy today are invited to claim a copy of The Motley Fool's must-read report on the company. Learn everything you need to know about Penney's turnaround -- or lack thereof -- and as a bonus, you'll receive a full year of expert guidance and updates as key news develops. Simply click here now for instant access.