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All good things must come to an end -- the eight-day rally for the broad-based S&P 500 (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC ) is now over.
Two concerns really helped to push the S&P 500 lower today despite growing optimism that the economy is rebounding, and that many stocks will run past the Street's expectations this quarter.
To begin with, investor worries are mounting over what Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke might have to say before Congress tomorrow. Although Bernanke did his best mea culpa recently with regard to when the Fed might begin paring back its bond-buying program known as QE3, investors have come to expect negative commentary in recent months from Bernanke's testimony.
The other story, and perhaps the only one that really has any substance as to why we're moving lower, is disappointing earnings results from beverage giant Coca-Cola (NYSE: KO ) . Sales came in weaker than expected for Coke, with sales volume in the U.S. really slacking off, down 4%. The company blamed soggy weather and a tough economic environment for its weak results.
By the time investors had digested today's news, the S&P 500 had fallen by 6.72 points (-0.40%), to close at 1,675.78. Stocks may have ended predominantly lower, but three companies still managed to stand out to the upside.
Topping the charts today is the newly formed News Corp (NASDAQ: NWSA ) , which advanced 4.1%. Although a report from MarketWatch examining the first-quarter holdings of Highfield Capital Management pointed to News Corp as the fund's largest holding, I believe today's move has more to do with ongoing consolidation talk within the media sector than anything else. We've already seen Gannett gobble up Belo, and Charter Communications has been rumored to be interested in Time Warner Cable, all within the past few weeks. This looks like more than enough reason to believe News Corp may be trading higher on that optimism.
Hospital operator Tenet Healthcare (NYSE: THC ) added 3.4% by riding the coattails of the nation's largest hospital operator, HCA Holdings, which pre-announced a better-than-expected upcoming quarter. HCA noted that it expects to report a profit of $0.91 per share, compared to the Street's expectation of just $0.78 per share. Based on HCA's improved admission rates, investors seem to believe that Tenet will also benefit from higher admissions, thus boosting its bottom line. With just a few worries plaguing the hospital sector leading up to the implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Tenet's rally could continue.
Finally, to continue our theme of coattail-riding for all three stocks today, International Game Technology (NYSE: IGT ) jumped 3.3% following news of peer Bally Technologies' $1.3 billion purchase of SHFL Entertainment. Although this deal is entirely between Bally's and SHFL Entertainment, consolidation within the sector is often viewed as a positive of sign of expected growth. (Why would Bally's make the move if it didn't expect rapid casino machine growth?) For IGT, a lot is riding on the future of overseas gambling growth, and the potential for the legalization of online gaming in the U.S.
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