I hope investors had a bountiful opportunity over the holiday weekend to enjoy the broad-based S&P 500's (^GSPC 0.01%) all-time record closing high because mixed economic data would have put a frown on just about anyone's face today.
Leading the charge lower was a weaker-than-expected manufacturing figure from the Institute of Supply Management. Coming in at 51.3, economists had anticipated that the figure would hold firm at 54.2 (the previous month's figure). Although any level above 50 signals industry expansion, the drop would signify a slowdown, which is contrary to many of the economic indicators we've witnessed recently.
On the plus side, construction spending improved 1.2%, a tad better than economists had forecasted and speaks to an improving industrials market.
All told, the S&P 500 gave back 7.02 points (-0.45%) to finish at 1,562.17. Despite the weakness, three companies decisively stood out above the crowd.
Video game and accessories retailer GameStop (GME -3.56%) dazzled investors for a second straight day after a small army of brokerage firms upped their price targets on the company. In total, five firms raised their price target on GameStop, ranging from 17% to as much as 54%. These price target boosts come on the heels of GameStop's estimate-topping fourth-quarter results, but, as I noted on Thursday, its full-year 2013 guidance fell well short of estimates. It appears that Wall Street is quite excited about GameStop's potential, with the next-generation of consoles on their way in the second-half of this year and is more than willing to ignore its 2013 EPS shortfall. Shares advanced an index-best 6.4% on the day.
Alcoholic beverage producer Molson Coors (TAP 0.89%) gave GameStop a run for its money after receiving an upgrade from Goldman Sachs to buy from neutral and seeing its price target raised to $63 from $47. Shares advanced 6.1% after Goldman pointed out that improving domestic employment figures should help fuel improvement in its North American beer market moving forward. In December, I focused on Molson Coors' ability to control its underlying costs -- as well as its pristine dividend -- as a reason it stands out among its peers. There are plenty of reasons to believe that Molson Coors could head even higher.
Finally, orphan-drug manufacturer Alexion Pharmaceuticals (ALXN) jumped 3.8% just one day after disclosing an investigation by the Food and Drug Administration into a bacterial issue at one of its manufacturing plants. The fact that Alexion disclosed that it's already fixed this issue may have helped push the company higher, but a price-target cut from brokerage UBS to $120 is a bit of a head-scratcher. News over the past two days doesn't seem to merit much upside and, if anything, I remain concerned about Alexion's complete reliance on Soliris, from both an approved products and pipeline perspective. It's a company I prefer to keep my distance from.