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Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over market movements, we do like to keep an eye on big changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.
To say that the broad-based S&P 500 (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC ) is walking on eggshells might be the understatement of the year. Most economic news has been in favor of this rally continuing, however the constant back-and-forth between the Federal Reserve's own presidents with regard to "will they or won't they" when it comes to paring back its $85 billion monthly bond-buying program keeps causing wild market gyrations.
The decisive move lower today was caused by comments made by two separate Federal Reserve presidents -- Charles Evans of the Chicago Fed and Dennis Lockhart of Atlanta -- that the U.S. central bank may start winding down its stimulus as early as next month if economic growth continues to gain steam. If you recall, the Fed's monthly bond-buying has been one of the factors largely responsible for spurring record-low lending rates and supporting a once-ailing housing industry. When this stimulus known as QE3 is slowed or removed, chances are that interest rates could rise, negatively impacting the housing and loan industry (i.e., banks).
Following these comments, the S&P 500 ended lower by 9.77 points (-0.57%) to close back below the 1,700 mark at 1,697.37.
Leading S&P 500 companies to the upside by a wide margin today was watch and accessories maker Fossil (NASDAQ: FOSL ) , which soared 17.8% after crushing Wall Street's estimates in the second quarter. For the quarter, net sales jumped 11% to $706 million while EPS rose 25% to $1.15 per share, a clean $0.22 ahead of the Street's forecast. Although Fossil's full-year forecast was nothing more than in line with current expectations, the 16% sales growth it experienced in Europe was incredibly encouraging and could lend hope that Fossil is back on track. Furthermore, as the supplier of watches for Michael Kors (NYSE: KORS ) (Michael Kors then rebrands the watches under its own name), Fossil's results could have played hand in hand with Michael Kors' almost ritualistic earnings beat announced earlier today. The watch industry remains hot and should be on your radar.
The story was much the same for beer producer Molson Coors (NYSE: TAP ) , which easily bubbled over analyst's second-quarter estimates and ended higher by 6.4% on the day. Sales jumped 18% to $1.18 billion from the previous year, but were primarily aided by acquisitions. The big boost in Molson Coors' share price came from its bottom line profit of $1.51 per share, which was $0.12 better than expected. It wasn't all fun and games, though, with Molson Coors CEO Peter Swinburn predicting a weaker second-half of the year as the company plans to spend heavily on advertising its core brands.
Finally, The Washington Post (NYSE: GHC ) added 4.3% after announcing a sale of its publishing business, including its renowned Washington Post, to Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos for $250 million. Who knows what Bezos plans to do with this publishing business, but it set a sector precedent in terms of Bezos paying a hefty price for The Washington Post. It's a bit unclear where the new Washington Post (the company) will go from here with regard to growth. Its other businesses -- periodicals and its Kaplan for-profit online college -- have struggled in recent years, which might give investors reason for caution moving forward.
As Fossil has undoubtedly learned, the retail space is in the midst of the biggest paradigm shift since mail order took off at the turn of the last century. Only those most forward-looking and capable companies will survive, and they'll handsomely reward those investors who understand the landscape. You can read about the 3 Companies Ready to Rule Retail in The Motley Fool's special report. Uncovering these top picks is free today; just click here to read more.