Not to sound like a broken record, but today's economic data was, again, less than exciting, yet the broad-based S&P 500 (SNPINDEX:^GSPC) scorched short-sellers by surging to another fresh all-time closing high.
The big news event of the day was the release of the weekly initial jobless claims figures, which rose 8,000 from the previous week to a seasonally adjusted 312,000 according to the U.S. Labor Department. Normally, we wouldn't expect to see the markets rally so strongly on a rise in jobless claims, but with this figure still near multi-year lows, the thinking here is that the overall jobs market is still improving, which could result in further drops in the unemployment rate.
Another key event that investors may have missed occurred in Europe where the European Central Bank announced that it was cutting its refinancing rate from 0.25% to 0.15%, while taking the unprecedented step of knocking the deposit rate to minus 0.1%! The move was made in order to persuade banks to lend more rather than pay the ECB to simply sit on their cash. The move is being viewed positively by investors, but it also demonstrates the severity of the growth concerns in the EU based on just how drastic the measures are that the ECB has resorted to.
But those concerns were of no matter to U.S. investors, who pushed the S&P 500 higher by 12.58 points (0.65%) to close at 1,940.46. This also marked the ninth gain for the S&P 500 in the past 11 sessions.
Topping the charts, and leading all stocks to the upside, was clinical and diagnostic laboratory services provider Bio-Reference Laboratories (NASDAQ:BRLI), which gained 22.3% after reporting its second-quarter earnings results. For Q2, Bio-Reference delivered a 14% increase in revenue to an all-time record $201.4 million despite a 10% decrease in EPS, to $0.37 from $0.41. Bio-Reference did, however, pull out the polar vortex card and blamed the weather for a $5 million/$0.05 in EPS reduction in its top- and bottom-line results. It also managed to top Wall Street's EPS expectations by $0.05. Going forward, though, Bio-Reference anticipates it will deliver meaningful growth in the fourth quarter for investors. Given that the need for personalized medicine and diagnostics is only growing, the demand for Bio-Reference's diagnostics should be expected to grow, as well. This bodes well for Bio-Reference Labs over the long run, and could make the company quite the bargain even after today's run-up.
Also running to the uspide was networking equipment manufacturer Ciena (NYSE:CIEN), which surged 18.4% after reporting better-than-expected second-quarter earnings results, and issuing strong guidance.
For the quarter, Ciena delivered revenue growth of 10%, to $560 million, as its adjusted earnings for the quarter skyrocketed from just $2.2 million, or $0.02 per share in the year-ago quarter, to $19.4 million, or $0.17 per share in Q2 2014. By comparison, Wall Street had only been expecting Ciena to report $0.13 in EPS. To add, Ciena announced that its third-quarter revenue should be in the range of $585 million to $615 million, which at the midpoint is well ahead of the $585 million Street consensus. As management notes, a more diversified product line, as well as a shift toward on-demand networking models, has set Ciena up for improved results moving forward. I couldn't agree more, and would certainly suggest investors with a higher risk tolerance add Ciena to their watchlists.
Lastly, and heading back to the health-care sector, shares of Halozyme Therapeutics (NASDAQ:HALO) rallied 12% after announcing that it was free and clear to begin enrolling and dosing patients in its pancreatic cancer study (Study 202) utilizing PEGPH20 following the removal of a clinical hold from the Food and Drug Administration. Halozyme shares were crushed in April after announcing the hold despite the fact that PEGPH20 is still very early in clinical studies, and probably shouldn't have been a major factor in its share price to begin with. With the hold removed, investors can hopefully remove their emotions out of the equation, and view a company that has a lot of things working its way at the moment. If the convenience of MabThera SC catches on in Europe, Halozyme could find itself a profitable company by as soon as next year.
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