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.
For a second straight day the S&P 500 (SNPINDEX:^GSPC) trekked modestly higher despite a lack of direction during the day and minimal economic data.
The only piece of economic data that had any bearing on today's trading was the weekly release of the Mortgage Bankers Association's latest reading of mortgage loan and refinancing activity. The index was up 4.7% this week, which is on top of a robust 11.9% gain last week. Mortgage originations have bounced nicely off their nearly two decade low set last month, signaling that homebuyers may finally be coming to their senses about these historically low lending rates.
Beyond this data, modest earnings beats from some of the nation's largest companies continued to fuel the sideways trading. Both information technology and hardware specialist IBM and telecommunications giant Verizon reported results yesterday that topped Wall Street's estimates, yet both were down on the day after providing guidance that failed to inspire investors. IBM was hit particularly hard, down more than 3%, after guiding adjusted earnings per share in 2014 to $18, which is $0.02 shy of estimates. Furthermore, ongoing weakness in the company's hardware business has Wall Street concerned that IBM may come up short in the first quarter.
By day's end, the broad-based S&P 500 had digested dozens of earnings reports and managed to push higher by 1.06 points (0.06%) to close at 1,844.86, its second consecutive day of modest gains.
Leading the charge to the upside was server solutions company Super Micro Computer (NASDAQOTH:SMCI), which advanced 24.2% after delivering a much better than expected second-quarter profit. According to Super Micro's press release, the company grew revenue by 22% to $356.4 million as its profit nearly tripled, with adjusted EPS coming in at $0.35. By comparison, Wall Street had expected Super Micro to earn just $0.26 per share on $333.5 million in revenue. Furthermore, Super Micro is forecasting a third-quarter profit of $0.24-$0.30 on $320 million-$350 million in revenue. Wall Street's consensus called for just $317 million in sales next quarter. Between the introduction of new products and high growth in Asia, Super Micro's move higher could still have legs.
Shares of intellectual property owner Vringo (UNKNOWN:VRNG.DL) ticked up by 21.7% after a ruling by U.S. District Judge Raymond Jackson in Virginia entitled the company to additional royalties from Google (NASDAQ:GOOGL) for infringing on its patents with its AdWords program. Google contended that it modified AdWords after losing $30.5 million in a patent infringement case with Vringo in 2012, but this ruling would signal that Google didn't adequately change its program and that Vringo is entitled to ongoing royalties until the program no longer infringes on its patents. Clearly this a positive development for Vringo and its shareholders, but revenue from IP-based companies is incredibly hard to predict, so today's move may not be worth chasing higher.
Finally, cloud-connected telephone company Vonage (NYSE:VG) spiked higher by 19.9% on the day despite no company-specific news. While a number of factors could be responsible for this move, the most likely candidate would be short-covering, with some 2.3 million shares held short as of Dec. 31. As Vonage moves higher it's painful or impossible for some short-sellers to hold their positions, requiring them to cover and ultimately sending the share price of a stock even higher. Although Vonage is profitable, and it offers an alternative to the much-disliked larger telecom companies, it hasn't delivered strong revenue growth in years and can easily be outspent on advertising by major telecoms. Unless Vonage is on a larger company's buyout radar I'd have a hard time supporting a much higher valuation from here.