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The market huffed and it puffed with all its might, but the broad-based S&P 500 (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC ) simply can't get to a new all-time high, despite again closing within two points of that figure.
Yesterday's positive economic data gave way to renewed fears about Cyprus' critical situation and what this could mean over the long term for Europe and its euro currency. The real culprit appears to be a subpar Italian debt auction, which concerned investors and saw yields on Italian 10-year notes soar to their highest levels in six months. Italy, which I predicted earlier this year had a high probability of needing some form of financial assistance, could be a tipping point that drags on the eurozone's growth prospects for years if it does indeed need assistance.
For the day, the S&P 500 ended lower by 0.92 points (-0.06%) to close at 1,562.85 -- less than three points from an all-time record high close. Despite spending the entire day in negative territory, three companies stood out head and shoulders above the rest.
Today's biggest gainer was biotechnology firm Gilead Sciences (NASDAQ: GILD ) which advanced 4.3% in spite of no company-specific news. Gilead has been on a tear for the past year, introducing a new four-in-one HIV drug known as Stribild, which is set to completely internalize costs and profits, since it uses no outside compounds as its previous three-in-one drug, Atripla, did. More importantly, Gilead is batting 1.000 when it comes to its oral hepatitis-C drug, Sofosbuvir. In all four late-stage trials, the drug vastly outperformed its placebo, with far fewer adverse events, and looks well on its way to becoming a blockbuster.
SAIC (NYSE: SAI ) , which provides engineering systems integration and technical services solutions to the government, jumped 3.9% today after announcing a special dividend and its fourth-quarter financial results. SAIC will be paying out an additional $1 special dividend to shareholders, payable on June 28, which definitely put some pep in shareholders' steps, as it typically pays out just $0.12 each quarter. For the fourth quarter, revenue rose 10% to $2.71 billion as the company reversed a year-ago $0.49 loss into a $0.54 EPS profit. With management showing confidence in its cash flow with this special dividend, investors may have further upside yet to come.
Finally, coal miner CONSOL Energy (NYSE: CNX ) advanced 3% after receiving approval from the Mine Safety and Health Administration, state officials, and the United Mine Workers of America to reenter its Blacksville No. 2 mine on Monday. The mine had been closed when smoke was detected, but regulators have given the company clearance to resume normal operations after the fire was put out assuming it's safe to do so. This is an important step for CONSOL as coal prices begin to stabilize with demand from China picking up, and as domestic supplies begin to shrink. CONSOL, like SAIC, could have plenty of room left to run.
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