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The broad-based S&P 500 (SNPINDEX:^GSPC) got little help again today with mixed economic data, and unwelcome comments from the Federal Reserve's meeting minutes, sending the index decisively lower.
Today was certainly a big day for data, with investors privy to October's retail sales, CPI, and existing home sale figures.
Retail sales were the surprising standout, up 0.4% compared to a flat reading in September, and well above the varying estimates that range from a gain of 0.1% to 0.3%. It's probably a bit early to get excited about retailers' chances of success this holiday season, but these figures would indicate they may not fare as poorly as some pessimists are anticipating.
CPI and existing home sales, though, left a lot to be desired. Although existing home sales are still strong at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.12 million homes, it nonetheless represents a better-than-3% decline from September, which is disturbing given that lending rates are at a four-month low. The spoiled U.S. consumer is showing us that they'd rather wait for a new record-low lending rate than jump in here at a rate which is incredibly attractive by historical standards.
Similarly, CPI showed a contraction of 0.1% compared to expectations that had called for a flat CPI. While lower prices are good for consumers (especially lower prices at the pump), they aren't good for businesses, and could signal a lack of pricing power.
To add icing on the cake, the Federal Reserve's minutes from its most recent meeting notes that tapering of its monthly quantitative easing program could be coming within months. The end of this free money program is viewed as bad news by investors.
By days end, the S&P 500 finished lower by 6.50 points (-0.36%) to close at 1,781.37, it's third-consecutive losing session.
Leading the pack higher today was small-cap injectable drug delivery system manufacturer Unilife (NASDAQ:UNIS), which soared 43.9% after signing a 15-year agreement with Hikma Pharmaceuticals (LSE:HIK) to supply it with 20 generic injectable drugs in syringes from its Unifill platform. The deal nets Unilife $40 million in upfront and milestone payments paid out over the course of this year and next year, and is in addition to product revenue generated from the deal. With Unilife only expected to be borderline profitable in 2015 prior to this announcement, I'd certainly say this deal should help get it decisively over that profitability hump.
Television broadcasting company Gray Television (NYSE:GTN) advanced 17.2% after teaming up with Excalibur Broadcasting to purchase a combined 15 TV stations from two sellers in a $335 million deal. As the Fool's Jeremy Bowman describes, Gray will take ownership of 12 of these stations, and sell four due to regulatory concerns. The deal will help expand Gray's presence in the central U.S. broadcasting market and, through improved market share, should drive down its competitive costs. However, with the share price up about 450% from its 52-week lows, I'd probably wait for a pullback before even considering chasing this any higher.
Finally, clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company Clovis Oncology (NASDAQ:CLVS) gained 16.7% after announcing a deal to purchase privately held Ethical Oncology Science for $200 million ($10 million in cash, and the remaining $190 million made up of 3.7 million shares of common stock), to get hold of mid-stage breast cancer drug lucitanib. Clovis could be required to pay EOS an additional $65 million if lucitanib receives FDA approval. However, Clovis is in line for up to 350 million euros of royalties and milestone payments from EOS' existing partner, Laboratoires Servier, based on development and sales milestone's achieved. Clovis' rights to the experimental therapy are within the U.S. and Japan, whereas Servier has lucitanib's rights throughout the remainder of the world. Although shareholders are excited, I would caution that Clovis has made a habit of failing to get compounds out of mid-stage trials. I would suggest waiting this out until we have later-stage data for this newly acquired compound.
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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