The stock market continued to move lower on Tuesday, building on Monday's losses as investors kept fretting about future monetary policy and economic pressures. Once again, the Nasdaq Composite (^IXIC 0.22%) led major market indexes to the downside, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average (^DJI 0.17%) and S&P 500 (^GSPC 0.25%) falling by smaller percentages.


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Data source: Yahoo! Finance.

Yet there were pockets of strength in Tuesday's stock market action. Pharmaceutical stocks Sanofi (SNY 1.09%) and GSK (GSK -0.29%) jumped on good news on the litigation front, while Signet Jewelers (SIG 1.62%) reassured investors that luxury consumers were still holding their own heading into the holiday season.

Zantac ruling goes drug makers' way

Shares of Sanofi and GSK closed higher by 8% on Tuesday, with most of the gains coming late in the session. An afternoon ruling in a U.S. district court granted summary judgment against tens of thousands  of plaintiffs that had made allegations against Sanofi, GSK, and other manufacturers of Zantac.

The lawsuits hinged on expert testimony that supported plaintiffs' claims that Zantac could cause cancer. The defendants argued that the expert testimony involved methodologies that were unreliable and failed to use objective and consistent data-evaluation standards based on science. The District Court for the Southern District of Florida agreed with the defendants, granting motions to exclude that evidence. Without the expert testimony, the plaintiffs' lawsuits lacked admissible primary evidence of causation, and the court granted the defendants' motions for summary judgment.

Zantac first became available nearly 40 years ago, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) removed it from the market based on research that showed that the drug slowly transformed into a potentially cancer-causing chemical. The lawsuits included a host of companies that at some point marketed the heartburn-fighting treatment.

Sanofi and GSK aren't completely free from Zantac-related litigation, as the district court order only covers those lawsuits filed in federal courts. Moreover, lawyers for the plaintiffs expect to appeal the ruling to the 11th Circuit. Still, with potential liability substantially reduced if the ruling holds up, investors in the drug makers are pleased at the current status of the litigation.

Signet exceeds expectations

Elsewhere, shares of Signet Jewelers finished higher by more than 20%. The jewelry retailer's third-quarter results for the period ending Oct. 29 were better than the company had expected, and Signet expressed high hopes about its position coming into the holiday season.

Signet's numbers weren't extraordinarily strong on their face. The jeweler reported quarterly sales of $1.58 billion, up 3% from year-ago levels and coming off a strong performance in the previous year's period. Same-store sales were down 7.6% year over year, but that came following an extremely strong 18.9% rise in the year-ago quarter. Similarly, adjusted earnings of $0.74 per share were down by nearly half from the same period last year, yet they still held up better than many had feared.

However, Signet believes that its acquisitions of Blue Nile and Diamonds Direct should put it in a more favorable position going forward, and it has solid inventory levels and is working to make its store operations and staffing more efficient. In its initial fiscal 2023 guidance, Signet expects sales of $7.77 billion to $7.84 billion, with earnings of $11.40 to $12 per share. The only caveat is that the company warned that its outlook discounts the possibility that macroeconomic conditions could deteriorate further from where they are now.

Investors have looked nervously at luxury shoppers to see if they would reduce their spending. Despite some business metrics indicating a bit of a pullback in some areas, Signet's news was well received among its shareholders.