The tug of war on Wall Street continued on Thursday, with the Dow falling nearly 200 points and other major market benchmarks closing with losses of nearly 1%. Concerns centered on the financial sector, with the ongoing controversy in the U.S. over unauthorized openings of bank accounts combining with woes at one of Europe's most important financial institutions to create anxiety about further downward pressure on the industry. Yet even though the S&P SPDR ETF (NYSEMKT:SPY) dropped about 0.9% on the day, several stocks bucked the downward trend and gained ground. Among the best performers were NXP Semiconductors (NASDAQ:NXPI), ConAgra (NYSE:CAG), and Supervalu (NYSE:SVU).
NXP could have a big buyer
NXP Semiconductor jumped 17% on reports that the near-field communications specialist could be an acquisition target. According to The Wall Street Journal, Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) is reportedly looking at potentially purchasing NXP, with unnamed sources suggesting that the price tag for a deal would likely top $30 billion. For Qualcomm, the move would be an interesting way to provide an instant spurt of growth, which could be especially useful given the struggles that the chip giant has faced recently with falling revenue. For NXP, meanwhile, today's jump sent its market capitalization over the $32.5 billion mark, suggesting either that shareholders have higher aspirations for an acceptable buyout price or that they believe a rival bidder could emerge.
ConAgra looks tasty
ConAgra rose 7% after the food company released its fiscal first-quarter earnings report this morning. The company posted adjusted net income of $0.61 per share, jumping by half from year-ago levels and topping the consensus forecast among investors by $0.13 per share. Sales eased downward, but ConAgra said that improvement in its margin figures helped push its bottom line higher. CEO Sean Connolly celebrated the results, saying that the reshaping of its portfolio of products is "clearly enabling us to expand our margins as we build a higher quality revenue base, improve efficiency, and deliver stronger and more consistent performance." If those efforts continue, then ConAgra could see further gains in the remainder of the fiscal year.
Supervalu climbs on takeover speculation
Finally, Supervalu picked up 6%. The grocery store chain was also a beneficiary of takeover speculation, with reports surfacing that Canadian private equity company Onex might be an interested buyer of Supervalu's Save-A-Lot business. Supervalu has looked at various strategic alternatives for its discount chain, including a potential spinoff to make Save-A-Lot an independent company. Depending on how much Onex or another private equity buyer might be willing to pay, however, Supervalu might be satisfied with a sale to take the discount chain private. In any event, greater certainty about the future of Supervalu's continuing operations should make investors more comfortable with the company.