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.
I'm not sure whether the Christmas spirit, the tryptophan, or the prospect of a long weekend got the better of investors, but the broad-based S&P 500 (SNPINDEX:^GSPC) gobbled its way to another all-time record intraday high before finishing the trade-shortened day down fractionally.
Leading the markets higher throughout most of the session was optimism that retailers will fare well this holiday season. Retailers opened their doors earlier than ever this year in the hope of attracting cost-conscious and cash-strapped consumers to their stores. However, with the payroll tax holiday removed and Obamacare's individual mandate set to kick in a month from now, many consumers are looking at less cash to spend this year than they were a year ago, leading many economists to forecast a tough holiday season -- and potentially sabotaging the S&P 500's attempts at another new closing high.
By day's end, the euphoria wore off slightly, and the S&P 500 ended lower by 1.42 points (-0.08%) to close at 1,805.81.
Leading all companies to the upside today was small-cap Nuverra Environmental Solutions (NASDAQOTH:NESC), which provides environmental solutions to the energy and industrial sector. Although no specific company news shot shares higher by 13.2% on the day, the stock has been clobbered this year, losing more than 55% of its value following a string of pretty dismal earnings reports in which the company missed estimates by a mile. Nuverra's future, as Foolish colleague Matt DiLallo has noted, is really dependent on the acceptance of fracking, and the subsequent treatment of the water used in this procedure. While Matt has his bullish and bearish points on the company, I'd prefer to stick to the sidelines until its bottom-line bleeding lessens dramatically.
Also heading higher by double-digits was commercial and retail banking company CorpBanca (UNKNOWN:BCA.DL), which operates in Chile. CorpBanca shares vaulted 11.1% higher on the day after Bloomberg reported yesterday that billionaire Alvaro Saieh, who owns a controlling 76% interest in CorpBanca, has hired Bank of America and Goldman Sachs to help sell his stake in the company, possibly to Itau Unibanco, according to two people familiar with the matter. As you might have already suspected, every party involved declined to comment, although, if true, it would mean the potential for a bidding war for CorpBanca in a best case scenario. This is certainly a situation that bears watching; as Chile and Latin America offer much more robust growth opportunities than most domestic U.S. banks, CorpBanca could still have room to run higher.
Finally, oil tanker operator Frontline (NYSE:FRO) made its second appearance on this list in a matter of days, advancing 9.9% on the heels of incredibly strong gains in the Baltic Dry Index (BDI) on Thursday. For the session, the BDI gained 9.3% to close at 1,719 which would represent its highest point in a month. The higher the BDI, the better the short-term charter day rates Frontline can charge for its transports. If you recall, oversupply has been the bane of shipping companies, so any sort of higher daily charter rate or retirement of older ships would be great news for this highly indebted and money-losing sector.
Fool contributor Sean Williams owns shares of Bank of America, 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.
The Motley Fool owns shares of Bank of America and Nuverra Environmental Solutions and has the following options: long January 2014 $4 calls on Nuverra Environmental Solutions and short January 2014 $3 puts on Nuverra Environmental Solutions. It also recommends Bank of America and Goldman Sachs.Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.