After falling sharply yesterday on concerns about tensions in Ukraine, stocks bounced back today on some strong corporate earnings reports. For the day, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI ) finished up 123 points, or 0.7%, while the S&P 500 gained 1%, and the Nasdaq jumped 1.6%, propelled by Google, which finished 4% after reporting earnings last night. Both the Dow and the S&P closed the week near all-time highs, notching gains for the week.
International tensions escalated as President Obama warned Russia that stiffer sanctions may come if the Kremlin continues to support rebels in Eastern Ukraine, calling yesterday's attack on a Malaysian Airlines jet an "outrage." In Israel, meanwhile, Prime Minister Netanyahu ordered troops to prepare for a wider ground assault in Gaza, also raising concerns about the volatile region.
On today's economic docket, the University of Michigan reported that consumer confidence fell slightly, from 82.5 in June to 81.3, missing estimates of 84.0. While many other sectors of the economy, including the labor market and manufacturing, seem to be rocketing toward full health, consumer confidence has been unable to break out of the low 80s range that it's stayed in most of the year, as retail sales have been slower than expected. Consumers gave high marks for current economic conditions, but expectations remained low, which may be putting a damper on spending.
Shares of Nu Skin Enterprsies (NYSE: NUS ) were taking a hit, once again, falling 6%, after the company got a downgrade from neutral to underperform by Bank of America. The beauty-products maker's shares fell sharply earlier this year when the Chinese government announced an investigation into some of its hiring and sales practices, and today, B of A said there was little evidence of a potential turnaround. Nu Skin shares touched a 52-week low on the downgrade, having lost more than 50% this year, and now trades at a P/E of just 10. Sales had been growing dramatically in China, but the government investigation seems to have cooled investors' hopes for growth. Still, this could be an excellent buying opportunity if Nu Skin can bounce back in China.
Shares of B&G Foods (NYSE: BGS ) also closed lower, falling 4% on a disappointing earnings report. The maker of shelf-stable food products posted a per-share profit of just $0.33 against estimates of $0.39, while revenue jumped 26%, to $202.9 million, thanks to several acquisitions during the past year. Organic sales increased just 1.1% in the quarter, however, as the company was hurt by lower prices, and gross margin fell 350 basis points to 31.1%, due to the pricing increase. Finally, the food supplier reduced its adjusted EPS guidance for the year, down from $1.59-$1.65 to $1.54-$1.60. While the company's attempts to diversify through acquisitions seem smart, and the stock pays a 4% dividend yield, the current consumer trend of buying more fresh foods may continue to pressure earnings going forward.
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