Surprisingly enough, Ben Bernanke's much-awaited testimony before Congress, and the release of a survey from the Federal Reserve, didn't spook investors. Then again, it didn't exactly light a fire under the optimists, either.
Heading into today, all eyes were on Bernanke, who had scared the broad-based S&P 500 (SNPINDEX:^SPX) into a tailspin last month on word that the Fed may choose to scale back its bond-buying program before the year was up. Today's testimony, compounded with encouraging data that showed modest to moderate growth in 11 of the 12 surveyed cities (Dallas, yet again, exhibited strong growth), was enough to push the S&P 500 higher. However, gains were also curbed by Bernanke's admission that a pare back of its bond-buying program was in the offing before the year is out if U.S. economic data remained encouraging.
By day's end, the S&P 500 had advanced by 4.65 points (0.28%) to close at 1,680.91. Although today's move higher was pretty tame, three stocks within the index broke decisively higher.
Topping the list of gainers was search engine Yahoo! (NASDAQ: YHOO), which added 10.3% after reporting its second-quarter results. Despite the big gain and the fact that Yahoo! slid past EPS expectations, today's gains have little do with its primary search and ad business, and everything to do with its ownership stake in Alibaba. For the quarter, Yahoo!'s revenue slid slightly to $1.07 billion, and the company actually trimmed its full-year sales forecast because of ongoing ad weakness. However, Yahoo!'s 24% stake in Alibaba, combined with analysts' boosted value estimates for Alibaba, translated into today's big gains. As for me, I'm worried that Yahoo!'s core business has very little going for it, and that gives me enough reason to stick to the sidelines.
Shares of chemicals maker DuPont (NYSE:DD) delivered strong gains for shareholders, rising 5.3% after Trian Fund Management's Nelson Peltz disclosed that he'd amassed a "big stake" in DuPont, according to CNBC. If the name sounds familiar, that'd be because Peltz also owns significant stakes in PepsiCo. and Mondelez International, and has been pushing PepsiCo. to make a bid for Mondelez to expand its international snack presence. The thinking here is that Peltz, being a proactive fund manager who seeks to unlock value, could have a trick or two up his sleeve to improve DuPont's lagging share price. We'll have to wait to see if that comes to fruition.
Finally, implantable cardiovascular device maker St. Jude Medical (NYSE:STJ) jumped 5.2% after reporting better-than-expected second-quarter results. Although second-quarter revenue fell by less than 1%, to $1.4 billion, from the year-ago period, it was enough to surpass the $1.36 billion analysts expected. Furthermore, St. Jude forecast EPS for the full-year of $3.70-$3.73, as compared to the Street's expectation of just $3.68. While I do see the benefits of owning a company like St. Jude as baby boomers age, I remain a bit concerned about the affect the medical device excise tax and Obamacare as a whole may have on a company like St. Jude in the near term.