What little economic data there was today certainly did its job to fuel investor optimism, but that still wasn't enough for the S&P 500 (SNPINDEX:^GSPC) to escape the growing turmoil in Egypt.
On the positive side, U.S. auto sales for both Ford (NYSE:F) and General Motors came in higher than expected thanks to strong sales of pick-up trucks. Ford was the real standout once again with a 13.4% uptick in total unit sales thanks to a 24% rise in F-150 sales. By comparison, GM's unit gain of 6.5% was much tamer. Vehicles aren't an inexpensive investment for consumers, so this goes to show how resilient the American consumer is in the face of higher payroll taxes and rising gas prices and signals that GDP growth may steadily expand.
However, as I mentioned, concerns regarding the possibility of a coup in Egypt continue to spook the markets -- specifically the oil market. Any coup would lead to the possibility of oil export disruptions, which could have wildly negative effects on worldwide oil prices and subsequent growth.
When all was said and done, the S&P 500 dipped by a fractional 0.88 points (-0.05%) to finish the day at 1,614.08. In spite of the minor downdraft, three companies managed to easily buck the trend and zoom higher.
Topping the list was steel products provider U.S. Steel (NYSE:X), which jumped 8.3% after it and a consortium of domestic steel producers filed a petition against nine oil-producing countries for antidumping practices. U.S. Steel has struggled with sluggish global steel demand and weak pricing, so any type of subsidy or tariff advantage that foreign countries would have is certain to make life difficult for U.S. Steel. However, I would suggest keeping your distance, even after today's move as U.S. Steel boasts one of the most debt-heavy balance sheets of the group.
Genuine Parts (NYSE:GPC) turned in an impressive gain of 4.3% on the day, likely on the heels of that better-than-expected June auto sales report. Although Genuine Parts is a distributor of parts to the used car sector, the mere fact that people are purchasing new cars can mean that consumers are trading-in and selling previous models. That could create a huge demand for used car parts and push Genuine Parts' share price even higher.
Finally, regional bank First Horizon National (NYSE:FHN), which has banking branches throughout Tennessee, added 4.2% just a day after paying shareholders a $0.05 quarterly dividend. Like Genuine Parts, there is no company specific news driving First Horizon higher, but the prospect for a higher net interest margin because of higher interest rates is certainly adding a boost to banks like First Horizon that rely on traditional loan and deposit growth. But as my Foolish colleague John Maxfield recently pointed out, you may want to keep your expectations for First Horizon tempered in the interim.
Fool contributor Sean Williams has no material interest in any companies mentioned in this article. You can follow him on CAPS under the screen name TMFUltraLong, track every pick he makes under the screen name TrackUltraLong, and check him out on Twitter, where he goes by the handle @TMFUltraLong.
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