It was a rough day all the way around to begin the month of May, with the Federal Reserve and economic data failing to move the broad-based S&P 500 (SNPINDEX:^GSPC) in a positive direction.
The Federal Reserve's Open Market Committee chose to keep rates at record lows yet again as it continues to see the need to encourage lending in a still-sluggish but improving growth environment. Investors are still concerned about the potential that the Fed may begin winding down its bond-buying stimulus program sometime this year. While it would certainly signal confidence that the economy is back on its feet again, it also could mean an impending increase in lending rates, which would be seen as bad news for business and the housing sector.
The ADP national employment report this morning also underwhelmed economists. The ADP report, which serves as a preliminary indicator of private sector job creation ahead of the official nonfarm payroll report on Friday, showed that only 119,000 jobs were created in April, well below forecasts. Construction job creation appears to be strong, but the remainder of the private job sector is showing weaker growth prospects.
All told, the S&P 500 finished lower by 14.87 points (-0.93%) to close at 1,582.70. In spite of today's defined weakness, there were three notable standouts to the upside.
Struggling chip maker Advanced Micro Devices (NASDAQ:AMD) led the pack today with a 14.2% gain after Wells Fargo analyst David Wong noted that it debuted two new chips in its "FX" series of chips. According to the Barron's article that notes Wong's comments on AMD, chip prices also appear to be stabilizing for the company. With AMD in the midst of a major transition into cloud and gaming and away from notebook sales, AMD is going to need all the help it can get -- and price stabilization for its chips is certainly a good start.
Global payment service solution company Western Union (NYSE:WU) bucked the negative trend and tacked on 5.6% after reporting its first-quarter results. Quarterly results weren't really anything to write home about as revenue fell 5% and profits dipped an even worse 14%. However, the company backed its full-year EPS forecast of $1.33-$1.43 and stuck to its guns that it would return to revenue growth in fiscal 2014. In order for that to happen it'll need a big turnaround in its ailing Mexican operations, but only time will tell if Western Union can turn that tide.
Finally, Pitney Bowes (NYSE:PBI), a provider of software and hardware solutions to the mail delivery industry, rebounding 4.5% after plunging by double-digits yesterday. As my Foolish colleague Travis Hoium noted yesterday, Pitney Bowes fell short of Wall Street's expectations in both revenue and profit and slashed its dividend in half to $0.1875 each quarter from $0.375. Even with the reduced dividend, Pitney Bowes is still yielding in excess of 5%, which is enough to attract value seekers today. However, I'd caution against being too excited about a company that's seen revenue fall precipitously since 2008.