It appears that nothing short of a catastrophe is going to stop the broad-based S&P 500 (SNPINDEX:^GSPC) from challenging its all-time high set back in 2007. The index advanced for a seventh consecutive day following what could be perceived as negative news from China overnight. That country's industrial production rose what would appear to be a robust 9.9% in the first two months of 2013. However, this is a 0.4% drop-off from December. Also, retail sales figures jumped 12.3% in the same period, the slowest growth in retail sales exhibited since 2009.
Still, optimism from Friday's jobs report continued to supply the spark that lit a fire under the market. For the day, the S&P 500 moved higher by 5.04 points (0.32%) to finish at 1,556.22.
Leading the charge higher is no stranger to the winner's column of late, Genworth Financial (NYSE:GNW), which advanced nearly 7% after a Barron's article over the weekend insinuated that the stock could nearly double from its current level. Barron's focused on projected gains in its mortgage insurance side of the business and noted that, at less than half of its book value, it could easily head higher. I tend to agree that Genworth is the mortgage insurer of choice, but I definitely feel that caution should be exercised in the sector. Over the past two weeks, MGIC Investment (NYSE:MTG) has more than doubled despite the fact that its risk-to-capital ratio is nearly 45:1 -- a level dangerous enough to halt underwriting activities or even prompt regulators to shut it down until it brings in more capital. This could be a lucrative sector to invest in, if you remain diligent.
Video game developer Electronic Arts (NASDAQ:EA) leapt 3% on mixed news regarding server issues for its newly released version of SimCity. Die-hard video game fans of SimCity have been nothing short of ticked off with EA's multiple server issues, which meant that it was unable to handle the sheer volume of people wanting to play the game. With that being said, the fact that its servers won't be at 100% for at least a few more days has to strike a chord with those angry gamers. However, that a fix finally appears in sight could lend credence to the idea that EA may soon be able to draw upon the fanatical love of the Sims franchise. This is certainly a PR flub, but I'd say it's doubtful that this launch poses long-term damage to the EA brand or Sims franchise.
Finally, automaker Ford (NYSE:F) revved up shareholders by gaining 2.8% after China's auto sales figures came in better than many expected. In total, China's auto sales soared 19.5% in January/February from the previous year -- one of the few sales aspects that accelerated from 2012. Specifically for Ford, sales rose by a whopping 46% to 105,209 vehicles. Although its China sales won't make up for the ghastly results we've witnessed in Europe that are caused by widespread austerity measures, it's clearly a positive that Ford's found alternative areas of growth outside the U.S. and Europe.