Stocks were mixed to slightly lower on Monday, as the last trading day of the first half of 2014 didn't hold many big surprises for investors. On a holiday-shortened week, most investors are waiting for earnings season to start next week, and anticipation for seeing second-quarter financial results has many stocks staying relatively calm. But that wasn't the case for every stock, as Hovnanian Enterprises (NYSE: HOV ) , MBIA (NYSE: MBI ) , and The Container Store (NYSE: TCS ) fell much more dramatically than the market at large today.
Hovnanian Enterprises fell 2.5%, bucking what for most homebuilders was an extremely positive day. Pending home sales jumped by their biggest level in more than four years this morning, posting a 6.1% gain and reassuring investors in the industry that the cold winter weather merely delayed home-buying activity rather than permanently destroying it. Yet after seeing gains of almost 20% last week alone in the face of equally strong housing data, Hovnanian was likely just ready for a slight pullback. In the long run, a single month's data won't answer the key question of whether the homebuilders can survive higher interest rates and consequent increases in financing costs. If Hovnanian can find ways to sell more homes even when rates rise, it'll go a long way toward debunking bearish theories about affordability in the industry.
MBIA dropped 4%. The insurer of mortgages, municipal bonds, and other financial instruments got downgraded by a Wall Street research firm. One major problem that MBIA and other participants in the muni-bond market have had to deal with lately is an emerging financial crisis in the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico, which faces stifling debt that many believe will eventually require a bailout in order to resolve without systemic risk to the bond market. MBIA in particular is on the hook for a substantial amount of debt, especially that tied to the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, and the analysts argue that it's smarter to wait until MBIA gets resolution to its Puerto Rico exposure before committing capital to shares.
The Container Store declined 4% as investors assessed the reasons why the initial public offering of crafts-oriented retail chain Michael's didn't go as well as expected. Michael's and Container Store aren't direct competitors, but Container Store also had a less than welcoming reception from the capital markets since going public late last year. Until U.S. consumers get their feet back under them, a tough retail environment could hold Container Store back from its full potential.
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