A day after one of the worst losses for the broad-based S&P 500 (SNPINDEX:^GSPC) all year, we're seeing a small rebound, albeit on the heels of economic news that otherwise would not have merited any upside.
The big story of the day was the 7.8% rise in jobless claims to a seasonally adjusted rate of 385,000. Economists had actually been forecasting a drop of 2% in jobless claims, so this was a most unwelcome shift. However, it shouldn't be completely unexpected given the shortfall that we witnessed in the ADP employment report earlier this week. As long as this seesaw battle continues to move five steps forward and four steps back, I believe investors will take their occasional lumps and be satisfied.
For the day, the S&P 500 advanced 6.29 points (0.40%), to finish at 1,559.98. Although the move higher was relatively tame, three companies really turned on their afterburners in today's trading.
Big-box retailer Best Buy (NYSE:BBY) was one such company, soaring 16.1%, after announcing an alliance with Samsung. The collaboration will allow 900 Best Buy and Best Buy Mobile locations to open mini Samsung shops within its stores by May that will host a full suite of Samsung products. That figure will expand to 1,400 by the summer. Given the popularity of the Samsung Galaxy series in the smartphone market, this appears to be another strong move by turnaround specialist CEO Hubert Joly. Best Buy's aggressive price-matching tactics, coupled with its cost-cutting efforts, earned it my vote as the only S&P 500 top performer in the first-quarter that I expect will continue to see gains in the second-quarter.
Struggling department store J.C. Penney (NYSE:JCP) garnered the second spot, tacking on 4.5%, after hitting a new 52-week low earlier in the trading day. The catalyst appears to be an announcement that Penney's will be partnering with seven jewelry designers who are usually reserved for higher-end jewelry and department stores, including Kara Ross and Kenneth J. Lane. The company plans to focus on these brand-name jewelry designers, who will create a line of lower-price-point jewelry for its customer base, in the hope of providing the differentiation from other retailers that it's so sorely missing. I'd call this another good initiative on paper, but color me skeptical, as always.
Finally, energy-drink maker Monster Beverage (NASDAQ:MNST) tacked on 4.1% after being named to investment firm UBS' (NYSE:UBS) top picks list for the second-quarter. According to Wall St. 24/7, UBS has selected 14 top picks which are expected to return 25% from their current levels, of which Monster is one. There's little denying that Monster has exceeded the growth rate of nearly all of its peers, thanks to the strength in its energy-drink sales. However, an FDA probe into the safety of its drinks, and the potential for increased governmental regulation, is enough of a gray cloud to keep me firmly away from Monster Beverage.
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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