Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over market movements, we do like to keep an eye on big changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.
Not a bad Labor Day-shortened week for the broad-based S&P 500 (SNPINDEX:^GSPC), which (barely) capped off a perfect four-for-four in the plus column on Friday following the release of key U.S. jobs data.
Overall, today's move higher wasn't without a little suspicion, as total U.S. nonfarm payrolls jumped by "just" 169,000, compared to varying forecasts from economists that had been calling for nonfarm growth closer to 180,000 jobs. Balancing out the miss, though, was a drop in the unemployment rate to 7.3% -- its lowest level in six years.
But again, playing tetherball with the U.S. economic data, the labor force participation rate hit its lowest mark in 35 years, signaling that more workers than ever are dropping out of the workforce. There could be a very good reason for this, such as going back to college, or simply retiring. Then again, with the average unemployment stint costing the American worker close to 38 weeks, it could also be a discouraging sign that some former workers have just given up trying to find work.
By day's end, investors had digested today's U.S. jobs data and largely ignored the slight nonfarm payroll miss by pushing the S&P 500 fractionally higher by 0.09 points (0.01%), to close at 1,655.17.
Despite having no company-specific news today to speak of, chipmaker Advanced Micro Devices (NASDAQ:AMD) topped the S&P 500 with a gain of 4.7% today. The reason for the optimism could be because of the imminent release of Microsoft's Xbox One, and Sony's PlayStation 4, in the coming weeks. With both gaming consoles running on AMD's processors, this represents one of its major attempts to push beyond just being a chipmaker for PCs and notebooks. It's still going to be a long and arduous turnaround process for AMD, but with the prospect of profitability on the table in the third-quarter, it's a long-term bet I'd consider digging more deeply into.
Not far behind with a jump of 4.6% is wireless tower and antenna owner American Tower (NYSE:AMT), which rose after announcing a mammoth $4.8 billion acquisition of MIP Tower Holdings, a private REIT that's the parent of Global Tower Partners. The move will add GTP's approximately 5,400 domestic towers, 800 domestic property interests, and 9,000 domestic sites to which it has management rights to, into its already enormous wireless tower portfolio. Let's not forget that the struggling NII Holdings agreed to sell roughly 4,500 towers to American Tower in Mexico and Brazil for $800 million just last month. With a rapidly growing portfolio, steady cash flow, and a near-guaranteed dividend because it's a REIT, American Tower should be high on investors' Watchlists.
Finally, brokerage firm E*TRADE Financial (NASDAQ:ETFC) wiggled its way among the top gainers, yet again, also tacking on 4.6% after receiving a timely upgrade from Goldman Sachs to buy, from neutral, and a price target hike to $19, from $13.50. The impetus for the upgrade was based on this week's earlier news that its banking subsidiary has been given regulatory clearance to pay a $100-million dividend to the parent company on an ongoing quarterly basis. To Goldman, this signals that regulators have adequate faith in E*TRADE's liquidity and credit risk moving forward. As for me, I still remain skeptical based on what remaining toxic assets E*TRADE still possesses, and would advise investors be cautious about chasing E*TRADE too much higher.
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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