It looked as if things were shaping up to be considerably worse than they actually turned out to be for the broad-based S&P 500 (SNPINDEX:^GSPC).
European markets took a dive overnight, as the HSBC Purchasing Managers Index in China came in at 49.6 for May, and signaled contraction for the first time in seven months. Contraction in China's manufacturing activity is worrisome, because China's GDP is already growing well below its 30-year average of 10%. Also, China's still robust 7.7% GDP growth in the first quarter is what's propping up a very weak global economy. If that growth weakens even further, you can expect the ripple effects to be seen throughout the world.
In the plus column, initial jobless claims fell this week to a seasonally adjusted rate of 340,000, and reversed last week's pretty sizable jump. Jobless claims are certain to vacillate over the interim, but the general trend has been that they're heading lower, which would be indicative of a slowly improving U.S jobs market.
By the time all was said and done, the S&P 500 had fallen by 4.84 points (-0.29%), its second straight down day, to close at 1,650.51. In spite of today's prevailing concerns, the following three companies decisively bucked the negativity.
Leading the pack with a huge gain of 17.1% was PC and hardware giant Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ), which shot higher after reporting estimate-topping second-quarter results. Although total revenue dipped 10%, to $27.6 billion, led by a 20% decline in personal systems sales, HP was able to wrangle a profit of $0.87 per share, which was well above its own previous forecast that called for $0.80-$0.82 in EPS. The turnaround here is certainly nowhere near finished, with HP planning to axe nearly 30,000 more jobs in order to cut expenses, but it was a walk in the park compared to PC-maker Dell's quarterly results, which missed EPS expectations by $0.14, and pointed to the growing urgency on Michael Dell's part to take his company private.
Drug manufacturer Forest Laboratories (UNKNOWN:FRX.DL) tacked on 5.4% after announcing succession plans for its current CEO Howard Solomon, who plans to retire by the end of the year. Forest's committee has yet to determine a successor, but the search is ongoing. It's a bit comical, though, to see a company rally more than 5% on the announcement of the retirement of its CEO, unless investors are really itching for change. With Forest Labs losing patent exclusivity on depression drug Lexapro last year, and with the company scheduled to lose protection on Alzheimer's drug Namenda in 2015 -- both drugs used to account for about two-thirds of total revenue -- investors certainly have plenty of reason to be skeptical and concerned about the direction Forest goes from here.
Finally, delivery logistics company Expeditors International (NASDAQ:EXPD) jumped 4.8% on the day despite no company-specific news. Investors certainly could be getting excited about next week's upcoming ex-dividend date on Thursday, which will entitle shareholders as of the close to a semi-annual cash payment of $0.30 per share. Ultimately, as long as the U.S. jobs picture keeps improving, companies like Expeditors International should continue to thrive.
Fool contributor Sean Williams owns shares of Dell, but has no material interest in any other 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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