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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.
The S&P 500 (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC ) gave investors its best shot at bouncing back in the closing hour of today's market, but it's tough to come back from the kind of losses stocks were running into earlier today. While the S&P 500 ended the day down around 0.9%, that was a markedly better number than earlier losses weighing the index down around midday. Stocks across nearly every sector plummeted into the red and the market's fear index, the CBOE Volatility Index (VOLATILITYINDICES: ^VIX ) , or VIX, jumped by more than 8%.
What spooked investors so badly? Manufacturing on both sides of the Pacific Ocean hit the skids today, with Markit's purchasing managers index for January showing U.S. manufacturing declining to a reading of 53.7 from December's mark of 55. New orders and output both fell in Markit's analysis, but considering that a reading of 50 indicates neither expansion nor contraction, American manufacturing's still growing solidly, if slowing somewhat.
That can't be said for Chinese manufacturing, as HSBC and Markit's flash PMI for China fell by nearly a percentage point from December's mark and dipped into contraction territory. Some economists did point out that Chinese economic figures often fluctuate around the Chinese New Year that's rapidly approaching, but the shock of the reading nonetheless sent Asian markets down and reverberated around U.S. stocks, outweighing strong manufacturing data from Europe.
Still, with earnings season on tap, there's always a chance for companies' great performances to outweigh broader market issues -- and that's exactly what happened today with the S&P 500's top three stocks.
Semiconductor maker Cypress Semiconductor (NASDAQ: CY ) jumped 6% today despite quarterly results that showed revenue falling 7%. Still, total fourth-quarter sales of $168 million just managed to top analyst expectations, and the company's operating margins more than doubled. With distributors reducing inventories, Cypress expects demand to pick up, and the company foresees revenue gaining through the majority of 2014 -- a prediction that investors clearly were happy to hear.
Network application technology firm F5 Networks (NASDAQ: FFIV ) also hit an earnings-related bounce today, with the stock jumping by more than 5% after the company released its quarterly report following the closing bell yesterday. F5's earnings adjusted for one-time items climbed to beat expectations, while revenue jumped 11% for the quarter from a year ago. Yet it was F5's rosy outlook going forward that impressed investors the most: The company announced that it sees earnings for the current quarter coming in at between $1.23 and $1.26 per share, topping the $1.21 average analyst estimate.
Yet neither F5 nor Union Pacific had as good a day as S&P 500 leader Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX ) . Netflix's stock blew away the market's lousy day with a nearly 16% jump after the company reported stellar quarterly earnings. Netflix's revenue advanced by 24% from a year ago, but the real victory for investors was Netflix's explosive subscriber growth. More than 2.3 million subscribers in the U.S. alone joined Netflix's ranks in the fourth quarter, with another 1.7 million international subscribers pushing the company's overseas subscription base over the 10 million mark. With Netflix projecting another 2.25 million new U.S. subscribers and 1.6 million international subscribers in the first quarter, this stock's poised to continue to soar behind the roaring rocket of member growth.
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