It was an ugly day from the get-go, and we have none other than Japan to thank for today's sizable swoon in the S&P 500 (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC ) .
Many investors had expected the Bank of Japan to provide further easing measures, but outside of announcing a $1.4 trillion stimulus program two months ago, it didn't offer any additional assurances to investors. That didn't sit particularly well with U.S. investors, who are already concerned that the Federal Reserve is going to roll back its $85 billion in bond purchases sooner rather than later and slow the U.S. economy to a crawl.
By the time roll call was done at the end of the day, the optimists were notably absent, with the S&P 500 falling by 16.68 points (-1.02%), to close at 1,626.13. In spite of today's negativity, three stocks decisively bucked the trend to the upside.
Video game and gaming accessories retailer GameStop (NYSE: GME ) once again topped the list, up 7.8%, after an official announcement from Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT ) that it will not charge users a fee to play used games on its next-generation console, the Xbox One. This news comes on the heels of Sony also announcing that it would allow users to play used games on its new PlayStation 4. This is a key win for GameStop which generates a vast portion of its profits from the purchasing and reselling of used games. In addition, it also clears the way for next-generation console sales -- such as the Xbox One -- to soar as penny-pinching gamers will no longer have to worry as much about paying top dollar for new games.
Despite the announcement that it was being sued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission over its use of criminal background checks prior to, or during, their employment history, Dollar General (NYSE: DG ) still managed to tack on 2.6% on the day. I feel this move has a lot to do with the prospect that global growth will continue to slow as dictated by investors' disappointment with Japan. A slower growth environment often favors discount retailers like Dollar General because consumers will attempt to stretch shrinking incomes even further in its stores. The next couple of quarters will certainly be telltale as to where Dollar General heads next.
Finally, wireless service provider Sprint Nextel (NYSE: S ) jumped 2.4% after SoftBank and Sprint amended their merger agreement. In more direct terms, SoftBank upped its cash offer to Sprint shareholders when the deal is complete from $4.02 per share to $5.50 (an increase of $4.5 billion), which equates to a purchase price ranging from $7.30 to $7.65. SoftBank intends to fund the additional $4.5 billion through a reallocation of investment funds initially promised to Sprint. This move should all but seal merger talks between these two companies and push DISH Network's competing bid to the back burner.
Is there life for Microsoft beyond gaming?
It's been a frustrating path for Microsoft investors, who've watched the company fail to capitalize on the incredible growth in mobile over the past decade. However, with the release of its own tablet, along with the widely anticipated Windows 8 operating system, the company is looking to make a splash in this booming market. In a new premium report on Microsoft, a Motley Fool analyst explains that while the opportunity is huge, so are the challenges. The report includes regular updates as key events occur, so make sure to claim a copy of this report now by clicking here.