With little U.S. economic data on the table today (other than a 0.6% rise in jobless claims), a big earnings miss from software firm Oracle (ORCL -1.20%), and escalated worries regarding Cyprus’ financial woes, proved more than enough to pressure the broad-based S&P 500 (^GSPC -1.11%) to the downside.
The day kicked off on a sour note following Oracle’s third-quarter miss after the bell yesterday. Oracle reported revenue that was more than 4% lower than what analysts had forecast, missed EPS by $0.01, and projected that its hardware revenue in the upcoming quarter would fall between 12% and 22%. Oracle blamed its rapidly expanding workforce on the earnings miss, but that didn’t seem to sit well with investors. Not surprisingly, downgrades followed the earnings report, and Oracle could be facing a prolonged slowdown in both the hardware and software side of its business.
Europe continues to be a hindrance to the S&P 500, as well, with the EU giving Cyprus until Monday to figure out how to raise enough capital to qualify for a bailout. If Cyprus fails to raise the needed money, it could be booted from the EU, forced into bankruptcy, and may cause credit availability to tighten across much of Europe.
All told, the S&P 500 fell 12.91 points (-0.83%), to finish at 1,545.80 on the day. Despite the noticeable downdraft, three stocks remarkably bucked the trend.
Discount brand-name retailer Ross Stores (ROST) provided one of the biggest boosts to the S&P 500, rising 3.4% after reporting strong fourth-quarter results. For the quarter, revenue rose by a healthy 15%, to $2.76 billion, and net income jumped 23%, to $1.07 -- both figures perfectly matching Wall Street’s estimates. Ross noted that it would no longer be divvying out monthly same-store sales reports, which could make it a bit difficult to gauge its performance in between quarterly reports; but, given its history of inventory management and driving traffic with discount and branded products that consumers want, I’d say that Ross is on track for further upside.
Business software maker BMC Software (BMC.DL) tacked on 3.4% after a Reuters report commented that multiple private equity groups are teaming up to take BMC private. KKR and TPG Capital have purportedly teamed up against Golden Gate Capital and Bain Capital in what could turn into a bidding war for BMC. BMC Software declined to comment on the rumors, but its results of late would indicate it’s running behind its peers in terms of cloud-based innovations. A buyout, should one occur, would likely be the best outcome for improving shareholder value.
Finally, born-again search engine Yahoo! (NASDAQ: YHOO) vaulted 3.5% after receiving an upgrade from research firm Oppenheimer. The covering analyst, Jason Helfstein, increased his price target on the company to $27, from $22, and placed an “outperform” rating on the company from his previous rating of “perform.” Crucial to Heflstein’s analysis is the belief that the Alibaba IPO will be a positive for Yahoo!, and that its page design and toolbar will drive traffic and growth. I have a hard time arguing against Helfstein’s analysis, or against CEO Marissa Mayer’s brass leadership, but Yahoo! also has a very shaky history of meeting expectations. I think it would be wise to take today’s upgrade with a grain of salt.