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Eventually, all good things must come to an end. Luckily, so do all bad things! It took some strong economic data, but the broad-based S&P 500 (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC ) was finally able to pull out of its five-day funk, and trudge higher to break its losing streak.
Perhaps nothing excited investors more than this week's initial jobless claims figure, which came in at a seasonally adjusted rate of 305,000, a drop of 5,000 from the previous week. Jobless claims have consistently been running near a six-year low for weeks, and would almost certainly point to an improving jobs market where the unemployment rate continues to fall.
Also boosting investor optimism was the final reading of U.S. second-quarter GDP, at 2.5%. Although this figure was unchanged from the 2.5% second estimate, it's much higher than the initial reading of 1.7% that had Wall Street quaking in its boots that another downturn was around the corner. Even though 2.5% is a far cry from where the Federal Reserve would like to see the U.S. economy, it signals that more robust growth could be in the offing.
Of course, the looming government shutdown, uncertainties surrounding the opening of Obamacare's state-run health exchanges next week, and the upcoming U.S. debt-ceiling debates are all concerns that pressed down on the S&P 500 and really kept it from taking off, despite today's overwhelmingly positive economic data.
For the day, the S&P 500 finished higher by 5.90 points (0.35%) to close at 1,698.67, handily putting its five-day losing streak in the rearview mirror.
Leading the charge higher today (though not by much since the top five performers were all within a 0.2% range) was biopharmaceutical powerhouse Regeneron Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: REGN ) , which tacked on 4.6% despite no company-specific news. The gain might seem a bit odd, because we found out earlier this week that its CEO, Leonard Schleifer, sold nearly 103,000 shares from his personal holdings. Investors appear to have quickly shaken off this sale as nothing more than routine, though, and continue to focus on Eylea's domestic and overseas growth, as well as expanded indications. While I wouldn't deny Eylea the title of being blockbuster therapy, I have to think nearly all of Eylea's optimism is baked into Regeneron's share price here.
Search engine and advertising company Yahoo! (NASDAQ: YHOO ) added 4.5% on investor optimism that it plans to list its shares in Hong Kong, while Alibaba plans to list its shares on the NYSE when it goes public. Yahoo! is still a large stakeholder in Alibaba; the IPO frenzy we've seen in recent months could translate into an inflated price for Alibaba and, thus, Yahoo!'s investment. The concern I have here -- which is pretty much the same concern I've had for years -- is where is Yahoo!'s organic growth going to come from? Sure, it's had some nice gains vis-a-vis its Alibaba investment, but ad-display revenue continues to stink! Yahoo! still has plenty of long-term questions yet to answer.
Finally -- and keeping with the tech sector theme -- shares of eBay (NASDAQ: EBAY ) also advanced 4.5% after it announced the $800 million purchase of privately held online payment platform developer Braintree. The move should help build upon PayPal's potential reach, but, more importantly, it removes another potential online payment competitor. The future growth of eBay is almost entirely dependent on the performance of its mobile payment division, because the online marketplace segment is more or less played out; so investors would be wise to see how well eBay integrates Braintree's operations moving forward, and if it turns into an immediate EPS boost for the company.
Mirror, mirror, on the wall... which is the greatest tech stock of them all?
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