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.
We sort of knew it would come down to the wire... again... yet, both the U.S. House of Representative and Senate last night voted to end the government shutdown on its 16th day, and raise the U.S. debt ceiling to fund the government through February 7, 2014. The news sent the broad-based S&P 500 (SNPINDEX:^GSPC) jumping to a new all-time record close.
Under the terms of the deal, Democrats conceded to the Republican Party the need for more stringent income verification when it comes to receiving a subsidy under Obamacare. In return, Republicans pushed through a bill that raises the borrowing limit for Congress, and keeps the sequester cuts unchanged. The result is a government that can finally get back to work, and make up for some 16 days of lost production and spending.
Also helping push the market higher today were weekly initial jobless claims figures, which fell 15,000 to a seasonally adjusted 358,000. Any drop is considered good news, as it would signal that more people are finding employment; however, investors have been a little more skeptical of this figure recently as it had spiked dramatically off its six-year lows.
All told, by day's end, the S&P 500 had advanced 11.61 points (0.67%) to close at 1,733.15, yet another all-time high.
Topping the list of gainers within the S&P 500 today is flash memory chipmaker SanDisk (NASDAQ:SNDK), which rose 8.8% after trumping Wall Street's third-quarter earnings forecast. For the quarter, revenue rose 28%, to $1.63 billion, as EPS came in $0.27 ahead of expectations at $1.59. SanDisk saw improved pricing, and benefited from a fire at rival SK Hynix's manufacturing facility, which hurt its rivals' production right at the time when Apple, and an assortment of PC and tablet makers, were introducing their next-generation products. SanDisk has had impressive growth in its up-and-coming solid-state drive product segment, and the hope here is that the company can push away from its reliance on memory chip prices, which are highly cyclical. It could take a few more years, but the move is clearly under way, and shareholders like what they're seeing so far.
Not too far behind SanDisk in the up column today was the nation's largest homebuilder, D.R. Horton (NYSE:DHI), which gained 6%. Although no company-specific news was visible, I'd call today's move a direct result of a deal being reached by Congress. Specifically, the congressional shutdown put a halt to Federal Housing Administration loans, which currently account for about half of all new mortgage loans. FHA loans are key because they often allow for much lower down payments, which is a key to fueling the ongoing rebound in the housing market. With FHA loans now restored, it could be off to the races once again for D.R. Horton and the homebuilding sector.
In similar fashion, refining and marketing company Tesoro (NYSE:TSO) jumped 5.7% despite little company news. The reason for the gains is pretty much the same for Tesoro as it was for D.R. Horton: the end of the government shutdown. When the government closed, it drastically reduced oil and gas output, which reduced the amount of petroleum products that Tesoro was refining, reducing its revenue and potential profitability. With government workers now back on the job, Tesoro should be expecting refined product demand to pick up, which, barring cooperative crack spreads, should mean improved profits for Tesoro.
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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