Let's make that a perfect five-for-five for the broad-based S&P 500 (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC ) since the tumultuous two-day tumble that wiped out about 3% of the index's value a week and a half ago.
Today's rally featured a little bit of everything, including better than expected earnings reports driving stocks higher, merger and acquisition activity, rumors fueling the desire for companies to take on risk, and even a solitary piece of positive economic data.
That last item was the release of the Conference Board's leading economic indicators for March, which rose 0.8%, up from a gain of 0.5% in February. This higher than expected result could signify that bountiful growth could be right around the corner for the U.S. economy; but investors might also take this strength with a grain of salt considering that this is a big rebound from the January swoon created by the exceptionally cold weather. Still, growth is growth and investors seem pretty pleased with March's improvement over February.
One thing to keep in mind is that housing data has been a crutch for the market over the past couple of months, and we're going to get a closer look at existing home sales tomorrow and hew homes sales for March on Wednesday. So this five-day winning streak may soon come to an end.
Today, though, went to the bulls with the S&P 500 climbing by 7.04 points (0.38%) to close at 1,871.89, essentially wiping away the entirety of the S&P 500's two-day drop for the week ending April 11.
Leading all players to the upside today was clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company Sarepta Therapeutics (NASDAQ: SRPT ) , which surged 39.3% after announcing plans to file for a new drug application for lead drug eteplirsen later this year. Eteplirsen is formulated to treat a specific type of Duchenne muscular dystrophy (it covers about 13% of all cases), and Sarepta was told last year by the Food and Drug Administration that its current phase 2 data would be insufficient for an early new drug application filing.
Today, though, the FDA appeared to have changed its tune, with Sarepta announcing the potential to file an NDA this year. A quicker approval could mean less cash burned, which is a big positive for Sarepta. But you should also keep in mind that GlaxoSmithKline and Prosensa were in a similar situation with previous DMD hopeful drisapersen last year and their therapy flopped badly in a larger study. As such, I'm perfectly happy watching Sarepta as an observer, not a shareholder, at the moment.
Not tracking far behind Sarepta was cloud-based service and network communications provider Cbeyond (NASDAQ: CBEY ) , which rocketed 38.6% higher after agreeing to be purchased by privately held Birch Communications for approximately $323 million -- between $9.97 and $10 per share in cash, depending on how many stock awards are issued to employees following this agreement. The deal isn't a huge shock as Cbeyond has been looking at innovative ways to boost shareholder value for the past six months, including a possible sale. With ongoing losses and a shrinking top line, I believe shareholders should count their blessings given today's premium. It also suggests that weaker plays in the cloud sector may still have hope that a white knight similar to Birch Communications will save them.
Lastly, chipmaker Advanced Micro Devices (NYSE: AMD ) , advanced 11.7% after reporting its first-quarter operating results after the closing bell on Thursday. For the quarter, revenue rose a robust 28% to $1.4 billion, with earnings per share of $0.02, despite flat quarter-over-quarter margins. By comparison, Wall Street only expected breakeven EPS on $1.34 billion in revenue. While the results were better than expected, AMD still reported a 12% year-over-year decline in computing solutions revenue and flat microprocessor average selling prices. AMD's guidance, though, was strong, calling for low single-digit sequential quarterly revenue growth and signaling that the PC market and its graphics division may be stabilizing. I see plenty of value in AMD at these levels, but would caution value investors to understand that this stock isn't without a number of risks as well.
Sarepta, Cbeyond, and AMD all soared today, but even they could struggle to keep pace with this top stock in 2014
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