Despite the rout that turned into a rally only to be routed once more, there were actually a couple of stocks on the Dow Jones Industrial Average that ended higher despite its 136-point drop. Coca-Cola continued to benefit from its franchising plan, rising just under a half percent, and Home Depot moved up a like amount, but the day's big winner was Johnson & Johnson (JNJ 2.40%), which rose just a little more than a half percent. Obviously it was a tough day to be in the green as rounding out the group of winners was Intel, which ticked up two pennies.
The health care giant was able to keep its head above water, however, because of twin forces that moved in its favor: It reported earnings that beat analyst expectations, and a jury found that it wasn't liable in marketing what turned out to be a defective hip replacement device, which it voluntarily recalled in 2010.
The earnings report was probably the bigger news since the latter is likely to keep dragging on. The company has almost a dozen complaints lodged against it, and it previously lost a decision wherein it was ordered to pay $8 million. Analysts figure it has plenty of money to weather any losses, particularly if it just decides to settle them en masse.
But that makes its better-than-expected earnings report important. J&J reported revenues of $17.5 billion, generating earnings of $1.44 per share, nicely ahead of analyst expectations of $1.40 per share. It also raised its full-year operating sales forecast as its pharmaceuticals business remains robust and essentially carried the company forward. Not surprisingly, its medical device division suffered and would have recorded declines in sales had it not made acquisitions that bolstered the top line. But with the prospects for a renaissance in its consumer product division, which should be back up to full strength soon following recalls a couple of years ago at its McNeill subsidiary, the future seems to tilt in its favor.
An accurate assessment
Also looking like it has a bright future is Acura Pharmaceuticals (ACUR), the drug developer that makes compounds to discourage drug abuse. After the FDA decided it wasn't going to allow generic drug makers to produce low-cost versions of OxyContin because of fears of addicts gravitating toward them in an effort to make methamphetamines, it means that only the branded versions of the drug will be available. Acura produces the abuse-deterring compound used in Pfizer's (PFE -5.12%) painkiller Oxecta, which contains oxycodone, the active ingredient in OxyContin. Acura's stock closed the day up 34% after having risen as high as 50%.
The drugmaker also produces Nexafed, a decongestant that also contains the abuse-resistant compounds. Should a drug abuser try to extract the active ingredient from the drug, the whole thing turns into an unusable thick gel. Last month, it got a similar boost from investors after the Kerr Drug chain would carry its Nexafed decongestant throughout its stores in North Carolina.
With a key ingredient in a tightly controlled market, Acura ought to see the gains that it's made hold.
Trust me on this
Also hoping to hang on is sold-state drive maker OCZ Technology (NASDAQ: OCZ), which announced that it expected its profitability to improve this year despite not yet filing a series of past-due financial statements. Investors were apparently willing to believe the company, though, because they ran up its shares by 26%.
Previously, OCZ said it expected that the revenues it realized in its overdue second and third quarter earnings reports would be in the range of $65 million to $85 million each, and now says for the fourth quarter it will be somewhere between $65 million and $70 million with positive gross margins. All well and good except those previous updates were far below the guidance of $110 million to $120 million, which itself was cut from even higher prior forecasts.
While the markets may be treating that as a known quantity at this point and the newest estimates suggest the business is stabilizing, it seems to me you're still buying blindly into a troubled stock. OCZ is behind on its SEC filings, it stands on the knife's edge of getting delisted from the Nasdaq exchange because of it, and it needed to get a new loan and security agreement to shore up its diminished financial base. A bet here is just that, a bet, not investing and that's not for me.