Political events always introduce a hint of uncertainty in the financial markets, and tonight's State of the Union address promises to include some contentious issues that could lead to further gridlock and dysfunction in Washington. Given the laundry list of things to resolve, including sequestration, the debt ceiling, and the longer-term trajectory of the federal budget, the President's speech will show his vision for his second term, while Republican responses will highlight the differences between the two parties and give a hint of future fights to come. Investors were largely in a wait-and-see mode, but the Dow Jones Industrials (DJINDICES:^DJI) did manage to peek briefly above the 14,000 level before dropping back and settling for a 20-point gain as of 10:45 a.m. EST.
But earnings continue to play a role in individual stock movements. Within the Dow, Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO) was the big loser, falling 1.8% after issuing its quarterly report this morning. The beverage giant posted 13% higher profit as global sales volume rose 3% despite substantial weakness in Europe. Yet soda volume kept declining, leading to modest overall revenue gains of 4% that missed estimates and reinforced concerns that Coke's namesake segment may have seen its best days. Moreover, a 4% volume decline in China bodes ill for one of the company's biggest growth prospects, although seasonal issues may have played a role in the emerging-market nation.
Elsewhere, Avon Products (NYSE:AVP) soared more than 17% on news that the company is looking for ways to maximize the value of its jewelry business, Silpada. The long-struggling cosmetics company reported better-than-expected earnings for the fourth quarter after taking into account restructuring charges and asset impairments, but Silpada had a particularly bad quarter as segment revenue dropped 18%. Seeking a buyer or a spinoff of the segment could help Avon focus more on its core business, which it has tried to turn around for years.
Finally, Michael Kors (NYSE:CPRI) jumped more than 11% after raising its guidance for fiscal 2013. The retailer now sees sales rising 62% and profit of $1.82 per share -- a full quarter above what analysts were expecting. With same-store sales having risen a whopping 39% during fiscal 2012, Michael Kors has managed to beat the trends that have held luxury peer Coach (NYSE:TPR) and many other high-end retailers somewhat in check.