Following day after day of mixed economic data this week, the broad-based S&P 500 (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC ) managed to muster up a solid gain on Friday after all data finally pointed in the correct direction.
First off, the final Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan consumer sentiment reading for March came in at 80 on the dot, up a fraction from the earlier reading of 79.9 and signaling that consumers' short and long-term financial outlooks are improving. Consumer sentiment is an often overlooked but important figure to monitor since consumer spending accounts for approximately 70% of U.S. GDP.
Also, personal spending and personal income both rose a nice 0.3% from February, meeting or exceeding economists' expectations. Similar to the previous discussion on consumer sentiment, consumers with positive economic outlooks are likely to spend their money. If incomes rise in accord with spending, the U.S. economy and the service sector have a good shot at continuing higher.
When the gavel struck to signal the end of the trading day, the S&P 500 had risen by 8.58 points (0.46%) to 1,857.62, reversing a two-day loss.
Leading all companies to the upside today was clinical-stage DNA and RNA-based drug developer Idera Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: IDRA ) , which rocketed 17.8% higher after delivering positive phase 2 results from a study involving IMO-8400 in moderate-to-severe plaque psoriasis patients. The phase 2 study met both its primary and secondary endpoints by demonstrating the tolerability of the drug, as well as through its clinical benefit of which nine in 20 patients on IMO-8400 achieved a Psoriasis Area and Severity Index score of 50 (i.e., a 50% improvement compared to the baseline at week 12) compared to just one in seven patients on the placebo. What shareholders can take away from this study is that IMO-8400 in its early stages is positioned toward a larger target audience (plaque psoriasis is the most common form of psoriasis) and that the clinical benefit of its treatment pathway appears validated. I'd still prefer to see later-stage data before breaking out the champagne, but Idera is clearly headed in the right direction.
Internet banking giant Bofi Holding (NASDAQ: BOFI ) jumped 14.4% on the day following a before-the-bell upgrade to outperform with an $88 price target from research firm Raymond James. The new price target implied 14.5% upside from yesterday's close, which Bofi shareholders practically captured the entirety of today. Bofi is by no means cheap compared to its banking peers, but its phenomenal growth expectations. taking into account that it's entirely based online, could very well lead to further upside in its share price. With a forward P/E of just 20 and a growth rate well in excess of 20%, I'd say this revolutionary bank is worthy of at least being added to your watchlist.
Finally, shares of born-again commercial imaging giant Eastman Kodak (NYSE: KODK ) rose 11.2% despite no company-specific news, at least today. The move, however, could very well be a continuation of an announcement earlier this week that the company was looking for a buyer of its 1,200-acre Eastman Business Park in Rochester, N.Y., so it could pursue its focus on commercial imaging and perhaps beef up its cash position. Investors are obviously still wary of Eastman following its bankruptcy and reemergence, so any effort to improve its cash position and narrow its focus to a few core business groups will probably be viewed positively by investors, as we're seeing today.
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