Investors faced renewed volatility in the stock market on Wednesday morning, as fears about trade escalations and central bank intervention created fresh uncertainty. In particular, rate cuts in New Zealand, India, and Thailand all showed the nervousness regarding the health of the global economy. As of 11:35 a.m. EDT, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) was down 309 points to 25,720. The S&P 500 (SNPINDEX:^GSPC) dropped 24 points to 2,857, and the Nasdaq Composite (NASDAQINDEX:^IXIC) lost 36 points to 7,797.
As geopolitical and economic worries mount, investors look for safe havens, and that helped lift the price of gold above a new milestone that market participants haven't seen for several years. Meanwhile, earnings season continued, and the latest news from CVS Health (NYSE:CVS) gave a good reading on how well the healthcare giant is doing.
All that glitters
Gold prices continued their recent climb on Wednesday, with shares of the gold-tracking SPDR Gold Shares (NYSEMKT:GLD) ETF picking up another 2%. Spot gold prices were up $29 per ounce to $1,503 after having hit a high of $1,511 earlier in the day.
Gold prices have been on the rise ever since the Federal Reserve started to back down from its previous policy of increasing interest rates. Because gold as an asset doesn't generate any income, higher interest rates make it more costly to hold onto the precious metal. When rates fall, the costs of holding gold go down, and that helps to encourage speculators to bet on further upward moves in the price of bullion.
Investors interested in gold have several ways to invest in it. Physical bullion involves storage costs, which is why ETFs that offer gold-price exposure like SPDR Gold Trust are so popular. However, gold mining stocks are also set to benefit from sustained higher gold prices, and in some cases, the impact on miners' profits from rising bullion prices can get magnified because of the slim profit margin available to many companies in the sector.
Gold isn't guaranteed to keep rising, but current economic conditions could support further gains. That has some investors convinced that now's a good time to own gold.
CVS gets a clean bill of health
Shares of CVS Health climbed 5% following its release of second-quarter financial results. The drugstore chain giant saw revenue soar 35% from year-ago levels, and adjusted earnings were better than most investors had expected.
The acquisition of health insurer Aetna was primarily responsible for the outsize sales gains, as it helped add to CVS' already impressive scope. Yet CVS also saw good performance in a wide variety of areas, including the pharmacy benefit management segment, healthcare benefits, and its prescription retail business.
CVS also boosted its revenue guidance for the full year by $200 million, expecting between $15.2 billion and $15.4 billion on the top line for 2019. It now sees adjusted earnings coming in between $6.89 and $7.00 per share, which is mostly above the previously expected range.
Healthcare stocks have suffered under threat of government reform efforts. But at least for now, CVS is firing on all cylinders, and shareholders are pleased with the fundamental growth prospects that the healthcare giant has in store for the immediate future.