Stock Indexes

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Stocks ticked lower on the second-to-last trading day of the year, as the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) and the S&P 500 (SNPINDEX:^GSPC) indexes each finished lower by less than 0.1%.

Today's stock market:

Index

Percentage Change

Point Change

Dow

(0.07%)

(13.90)

S&P 500

(0.03%)

(0.66)

Data source: Yahoo! Finance.

Gold prices bounced higher, and that spike produced a solid day for investors in both the VanEck Vectors Gold Miners ETF (NYSEMKT:GDX) and the triple-leveraged Direxion Daily Gold Miners Bull 3X ETF (NYSEMKT:NUGT).

As for individual stocks, Cempra (NASDAQ:CEMP) and Sears Holdings (NASDAQ:SHLD) stood out by posting large price swings in an overall flat market.

Cempra gets rejected

Cempra, a biotech focused on bacterial infectious diseases, slumped 58% after the Food and Drug Administration rejected two drug applications related to its lead product, solithromycin. The applications applied to oral and intravenous versions of the drug aimed at treating community-acquired bacterial pneumonia, or CABP.

Clinical Research

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There were multiple issues with Cempra's drug trials, according to the FDA, including the fact that its testing base wasn't nearly big enough. The sample of 920 patients was "too small to adequately characterize the nature and frequency of serious hepatic adverse effects," it explained. The FDA recommended a much larger study of at least 9,000 patients, instead. Government regulators also found deficiencies at Cempra's manufacturing facilities that would need to be fixed before the drug could be sold in the U.S. market. Bottom line, the FDA said it could not approve the new drug applications in their present form, leaving Cempra few choices but to start crafting entirely new clinical trials for the treatments.

The ruling is a setback for the company, which had hoped CABP treatments would help catapult solithromycin into quick market acceptance, perhaps as early as the 2017-2018 influenza and pneumonia season. Outright FDA rejections on the oral and intravenous formulations put a major crimp in those plans.

Sears Holdings adds a credit line

Sears Holdings stock jumped 9% on news that the struggling retailer has received a much-needed cash infusion. The company secured a $200 million credit line that could be boosted to as much as $500 million, it said in a press release on Thursday.

Sears Holdings is reeling from slumping demand. Revenue in the most recent quarter plunged 14% as it closed dozens of underperforming Kmart and Sears locations and as existing shops booked a brutal 7% decline in comparable-store sales. Worse yet, the customer traffic slump came despite heavy discounting that sent gross margin down to 19% of sales from 22% last year. By contrast, rival retailers are booking profitability of between 26% and 30%.

Altogether, the business endured a doubling of its operating loss to $600 million. Toss in the extra $100 million of interest payments tied to a large debt burden, and total loss attributed to shareholders was $748 million last quarter, or $6.99 per share.

The new credit deal lessens the urgency around its business failings during what was likely a rough holiday shopping season. It buys Sears precious time to consider its cash-raising options and more flexibility to do so on advantageous terms. But investors shouldn't take it as a sign that operations are improving. Instead, it confirms that Sears Holdings wasn't able to meet its financial obligations while also investing in its turnaround plan, which means a bankruptcy filing is still a possible -- if not likely -- end to this investment story.

Demitrios Kalogeropoulos has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.