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S&P 500 News: Unemployment Falls, Facebook Surges on TikTok Competitor, MGM Stock Leads Casinos Higher, Can Apple Break $2 Trillion Mark?

By Jason Hall – Aug 6, 2020 at 6:57PM

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Better-than-expected jobless claims, better-than-expected earnings, and good news out of Macau had investors buying today.

After spending much of the morning in the red, the S&P 500 Index (^GSPC -1.51%) gained 20 points, or about 0.6% higher, on Aug. 6. Today's best-performing S&P stock was MGM Resorts International (MGM -0.90%), up 10% on potentially positive news for the casino industry. Social media giant Facebook (META -0.54%) shares jumped 6.5% on news it was launching a TikTok competitor, while Apple Inc (AAPL -3.00%) shares gained 3.5%, moving the iGiant closer to a $2 trillion market cap. 

In earnings news, shares of telecom provider CenturyLink (LUMN -1.35%) gained 7.3% while Bristol Myers Squibb (BMY -0.86%) gained 2.8% after they reported second quarter results.

On the downside of earnings, Western Digital (WDC 1.15%) shares got crushed, down 16%, while healthcare equipment suppliers and distributors Becton Dickinson (BDX -1.46%) and Cardinal Health (CAH -0.91%) fell 8.4% and 7.8%, respectively, following disappointing quarterly results. 

Unemployment benefits form.

Image source: Getty Images.

Overarching today's market was the weekly unemployment report, with 1.2 million people filing for unemployment last week. While still at unprecedented levels, this is the lowest number of new filers since March, and well below economist expectations. 

When "less bad" is good

In any other year, 1.2 million new filers for unemployment would not only be a record, it would be nearly double the prior high of just under 700,000, set about a decade ago during the Global Financial Crisis. But in this moment, 1.2 million was much better than the 1.4 million economists were expecting, and the lowest number of new claimants in more than four months. 

Additionally, there's a perverse "positive" side to this unprecedented number of Americans out of work: It makes it more likely that Congress will pass additional economic stimulus. A record number of Americans remain out of work as the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread, and barring a medical breakthrough, the economy faces massive uncertainty for at least the rest of 2020. 

Good news coming for these casino stocks?

Joining MGM Resorts on the move higher today were Wynn Resorts (WYNN -2.05%) and Las Vegas Sands (LVS -2.62%), following word that Macau -- an important gaming center in Asia -- could be moving closer to seeing its border with China opening back up soon. That would be a huge positive for all three of these casino operators. Their Macau casinos are open, but getting very little business since their all-important Chinese customers have faced serious restrictions. 

Facebook launching TikTok alternative, Apple approaching $2 trillion value

While fellow tech behemoth Microsoft (MSFT -1.94%) pursues an acquisition of the Chinese video sharing app, Facebook is going on the defensive. The company announced Instagram Reels, a feature it will add to its Instagram app that allows users to record and edit short videos. Facebook shares gained 6.4% today, likely at least partly due to this new feature that could further strengthen the social media giant's competitive moat. 

Apple's move higher today pushed the world's most profitable company to a market cap of just under $1.9 trillion. With the company's stock set to undergo a 4-for-1 split soon, the perception of a cheaper price post-split could provide enough momentum to see it become the first U.S. company to break the $2 trillion market cap mark. 

Earnings up, earnings down

CenturyLink Communications reported $0.42 per share in adjusted earnings, better than analysts expected, and well above last year's $0.34 per share. The company has spent the past several years working to integrate its merger with Level 3 Communications, and it looks like it's paying off as its enterprise and data services results start to offset the decline of its legacy telecom business.

Bristol Myers Squibb reported a loss of $0.04 per share due to a $2.4 billion asset impairment; but adjusting for this anticipated (and non-cash) event, the pharma giant earned $1.63 per share, up 38% year over year and beating expectations, even as the coronavirus pandemic has some negative impacts on its revenues

Booking Holdings (BKNG -2.13%) shares are up about 5% in after-hours trading after the release of its second quarter results. The travel giant reported an enormous 91% decline in gross travel bookings, and an 84% drop in net revenue. With global travel essentially coming to a halt in the second quarter, the result wasn't a surprise. Yet even with the huge drop in spending on travel, Booking Holdings still netted a $122 million profit in the quarter. 

Hard drive and storage giant Western Digital took a beating today, following a mixed second quarter and lower-than-expected guidance for the rest of the year. Revenue of $4.29 billion was short of analyst estimates, while earnings of $1.23 per share was in line. But third quarter midpoint guidance of $3.8 billion is well below estimates of $4.4 billion, while management's earnings guidance was less than half what Wall Street was predicting for Q3. 

Becton Dickinson and Cardinal Health reported second and fourth fiscal quarter results, respectively, with both healthcare companies coming up short of expectations. The former said revenue fell more than 9% and earnings fell 36%, while the latter reported a 2% decrease in revenue and a 9% drop in adjusted earnings per share. Both cited COVID-19 as having a negative impact on orders and volume, and set the expectation that the pandemic would continue to weigh on their results in the coming quarters. That's something investors weren't expecting to hear from these healthcare industry suppliers. 

Up next: What will Friday bring?

It's not common for companies to report earnings on Fridays, but healthcare property owner Ventas (NYSE:VTR) and retail REIT Kimco Realty (NYSE:KMI) are scheduled to release results Aug. 7. Fellow healthcare REIT Welltower (WELL 1.56%) set the stage for optimism for Ventas, reporting a more modest decline in senior housing occupancy than expected in its second quarter release. Investors are hopeful that Ventas' results will be similar. 

For Kimco Realty, retail real estate remains a tough business, with many of its tenants struggling to make ends meet. However, with a portfolio of open-air shopping centers, investors are hopeful that its properties will prove more resilient, and its tenants are faring better than others. Tune back in tomorrow for more when they report. 

Teresa Kersten, an employee of LinkedIn, a Microsoft subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Randi Zuckerberg, a former director of market development and spokeswoman for Facebook and sister to its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Jason Hall owns shares of CenturyLink and Welltower. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Apple, Booking Holdings, Bristol Myers Squibb, Facebook, and Microsoft. The Motley Fool recommends Becton, Dickinson and recommends the following options: long January 2021 $85 calls on Microsoft and short January 2021 $115 calls on Microsoft. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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Stocks Mentioned

Apple Inc. Stock Quote
Apple Inc.
AAPL
$138.20 (-3.00%) $-4.28
S&P 500 Index - Price Return (USD) Stock Quote
S&P 500 Index - Price Return (USD)
^GSPC
$3,585.62 (-1.51%) $-54.85
Microsoft Corporation Stock Quote
Microsoft Corporation
MSFT
$232.90 (-1.94%) $-4.60
Bristol Myers Squibb Company Stock Quote
Bristol Myers Squibb Company
BMY
$71.09 (-0.86%) $0.62
Becton, Dickinson and Company Stock Quote
Becton, Dickinson and Company
BDX
$222.83 (-1.46%) $-3.29
Meta Platforms, Inc. Stock Quote
Meta Platforms, Inc.
META
$135.68 (-0.54%) $0.73
Cardinal Health, Inc. Stock Quote
Cardinal Health, Inc.
CAH
$66.68 (-0.91%) $0.61
Wynn Resorts, Limited Stock Quote
Wynn Resorts, Limited
WYNN
$63.03 (-2.05%) $-1.32
MGM Resorts International Stock Quote
MGM Resorts International
MGM
$29.72 (-0.90%) $0.27
Las Vegas Sands Stock Quote
Las Vegas Sands
LVS
$37.52 (-2.62%) $-1.01
Booking Holdings Stock Quote
Booking Holdings
BKNG
$1,643.21 (-2.13%) $-35.71
Western Digital Corporation Stock Quote
Western Digital Corporation
WDC
$32.55 (1.15%) $0.37
Lumen Technologies Stock Quote
Lumen Technologies
LUMN
$7.28 (-1.35%) $0.10
Welltower Inc. Stock Quote
Welltower Inc.
WELL
$64.32 (1.56%) $0.99
Ventas, Inc. Stock Quote
Ventas, Inc.
VTR
$40.17 (2.47%) $0.97

*Average returns of all recommendations since inception. Cost basis and return based on previous market day close.

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