I hope you enjoyed Dow 14,000, Groundhog Day, and the Super Bowl, because reality just smacked investors in the face like a cold bucket of water at five o'clock in the morning.
It was a miserable day for optimists in the U.S. who were decimated by overseas political worries in both Spain and Italy. In Spain, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is dealing with allegations that he and his top party officials secretly channeled donations directly into their pockets. Calls for his resignation are intensifying despite his denial of these allegations. In Italy, meanwhile, Silvio Berlusconi, who's shown little favor for the already enacted austerity measures in his country, is gaining favor in election polls. Unsurprisingly, borrowing rates in both countries moved higher.
For the day, the S&P 500 (SNPINDEX:^GSPC) ended decisively lower by 17.46 points (-1.15%), to finish at 1,495.71.
In spite of the negativity, a few companies were able to overcome the overseas pessimism and move higher. Here's a look at three bright spots on a generally gloomy day.
Leading the charge higher, yet again, was streaming content provider Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX), up another 6.1%. Netflix recently reported its full-year results, which included 9.74 million streaming subscriptions gained during the year and a large fourth-quarter earnings beat. Subsequently, the analyst upgrades have been streaming in, with BMO Capital Markets upping their price target to $165 from $135 while keeping their "market perform" rating on their stock.
Paramount to Netflix's future growth was a key content deal signed with Disney (NYSE:DIS) during the fourth quarter, which will give Netflix access to Disney and its subsidiary studios' movies by 2016 and give direct-to-video access of Disney movies this year. For Netflix, it landed an exclusive deal with a premier family-oriented studio, and for Disney, it removed some licensing uncertainties and further strengthens the brand name by licensing it all under one content provider.
Health benefits provider Humana (NYSE:HUM) also was off to the races from the opening bell, rising just shy of 5% on the day following the release of its fourth-quarter earnings results. Although EPS declined slightly to $1.19 from $1.20 year over year, it still handily beat the $1.06 consensus estimate on Wall Street. Humana did warn that higher flu costs could cut into its results, but it nonetheless reaffirmed its fiscal 2013 guidance to the delight of shareholders. Many health solutions providers have been hammered with the looming introduction of Obamacare in 2014, but this appears to be another case where investors have underestimated the profit potential of the health benefits sector.
Finally, Newmont Mining (NYSE:NEM) and other gold miners found themselves in the spotlight with the European fear factor creeping back into the picture. Shares of Newmont rose around 1% as spot gold prices bucked the general market weakness and headed higher. Gold is often viewed as a safe-haven investment when the market is turning lower, especially in the U.S., where the rapidly increasing money supply in the past few years threatens to dilute the value of the dollar. As goes the spot price of gold, so goes Newmont Mining.
Fool contributor Sean Williams has no material interest in any companies mentioned in this article. You can follow him on CAPS under the screen name TMFUltraLong, track every pick he makes under the screen name TrackUltraLong, and check him out on Twitter, where he goes by the handle @TMFUltraLong.
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