The stock market didn't see big movements on Thursday, as major benchmarks finished close to where they began the day. Investors paid close attention to news from Washington, where a draft release of the Senate version of the Trumpcare bill was made available. A halt to the slide in crude oil prices also contributed to a more positive mood on Wall Street, but none of the moves were considerable enough to warrant a major advance.
Still, some individual stocks' good news led to more dramatic action. Barnes & Noble (BKS), SunPower (SPWR -2.80%), and Valeant Pharmaceuticals (BHC -0.37%) were among the best performers on the day. Below, we'll look more closely at these stocks to tell you why they did so well.
Barnes & Noble writes the book on a great quarter
Shares of Barnes & Noble climbed 8% after the company released better financial results for its fiscal fourth quarter than most of those following the stock had expected. The bookseller said that revenue was down 6% from the year-ago period, with comparable-store sales falling by the same figure. Yet even though Barnes & Noble lost money again, adding more ammunition to the argument that a dividend cut might be necessary in the near future, the loss narrowed by more than half over the past year. CEO Demos Parneros pointed to cost-cutting measures that helped the retailer get through what "proved to be a challenging year for the company." He believes that by simplifying Barnes & Noble's operations, improving business performance and higher sales will result. Investors appear to agree, even though the bookstore's immediate future guidance calls for further comparable-sales declines in the year to come.
SunPower shines on Trump's solar wall
SunPower stock rose 13%, responding favorably to comments from President Donald Trump suggesting that his proposed border wall with Mexico could be covered with solar panels. Solar energy experts went into overdrive, doing calculations that showed that such a project could represent a huge boost to the solar industry and make up a significant fraction of global annual production capacity. Yet some attributed share-price gains not to the likelihood of a solar wall becoming reality but rather to the idea that the president might not be entirely opposed to the solar industry more generally. Given comments from the administration with respect to coal and other fossil fuel producers, even a scrap of goodwill toward solar companies like SunPower was enough to reverse the negative mood among shareholders.
Valeant hopes for a break
Finally, shares of Valeant Pharmaceuticals gained 13%. The drug company has gotten hit hard recently, and comments in recent months from the Trump administration suggesting that it would put restrictions on drugmakers to combat high prices weighed further on Valeant shares. However, investors today are speculating that the president will sign an executive order that would include proposals that the drug industry itself has suggested, and the Senate's version of the healthcare bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act also appears to have favorable provisions. Whether that will prove enough for the beleaguered Valeant remains to be seen, but for now, investors see any prospect for better times ahead as a welcome surprise.