Stocks were generally strong on Wednesday, as investors were pleased to see the continued support of the Federal Reserve and its plans to sustain low interest rates well into the future. Yet, within the market, both winners and losers were in abundance today, as AIG (NYSE: AIG ) and Stillwater Mining (NYSE: SWC ) hit new highs for the year, while American Eagle Outfitters (NYSE: AEO ) slumped to new lows.
AIG's 2% gain brought it to levels it hadn't seen in more than three years as the insurance giant continues its long recovery from the financial crisis. AIG got a favorable look from a Wall Street analyst this morning, who upgraded AIG stock and said that the insurance company has the best opportunity to reinvest capital into growing its own business. Most financial companies have done major share buybacks recently; but with systemically important financial institutions subject to capital restrictions that can reduce their ability to repurchase stock, the ability to grow internally could give AIG a key competitive advantage. That's why investors are increasingly betting on the stock, which still trades at a substantial discount to book value.
Stillwater Mining picked up 4%, returning to levels not seen since mid-2011, and following the favorable trend of platinum-group metals prices higher. Last week, Stillwater announced that it had come to a five-year refining and sales supply contract with metals specialist Johnson Matthey, under which Johnson Matthey will buy all of Stillwater's mined palladium and a large portion of its platinum production. The deal brings a lot of certainty to Stillwater's future, but it also brings Johnson Matthey's considerable reputation to the aid of Stillwater in securing materials for Stillwater Mining's platinum-group metals recycling business. As palladium prices, in particular, have soared, Stillwater has a huge opportunity to benefit from healthy conditions in the platinum-group metals market.
American Eagle Outfitters hit its lowest level in almost three years Wednesday, falling 6% as the teen retailer's earnings dropped by more than 85% in the first quarter. Huge promotional discounting activity caused a big hit to earnings, but even worse was American Eagle's negative guidance for the current quarter. With plans to close 150 stores during the next three years, it's uncertain how American Eagle expects to return to a growth footing in the future. For now, though, investors are in survival mode, and American Eagle needs to demonstrate its ability to formulate a viable turnaround strategy sooner rather than later.
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