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.
The market whipsaw continued again today with the broad-based S&P 500 (SNPINDEX:^SPX) moving decisively higher following positive economic data and a steady stream of strong earnings reports.
One of the primary reasons the market vaulted higher today was a sizable reduction of 20,000 in weekly initial jobless claims to a seasonally adjusted 331,000. It's taken a few weeks to move lower from the holiday-induced spike upwards in weekly jobless claims, but weekly claims figures below a seasonally adjusted 350,000 would certainly suggest a slow, but ongoing, improvement in the U.S. unemployment rate.
Also, preliminary fourth-quarter productivity estimates came in significantly higher than expectations at 3.2%. Although this is down from the revised 3.6% improvement in the third-quarter, it would still point toward improving operating efficiency for our nation's businesses. Coupled with a 1.6% reduction in unit labor costs, it's quite evident that American businesses are getting more out of their employees for a lower cost. That's the perfect recipe for margin expansion.
By the closing bell, the S&P 500 had moved markedly higher by 21.79 points (1.15%), to close at 1,773.43.
Leading all companies to the upside today is coffee supplier Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (NASDAQ:GMCR), which skyrocketed 27% after announcing its first-quarter results and announcing a 10-year partnership with Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO), resulting in Coke also buying a 10% stake in the company for $1.25 billion. The partnership will allow Coca-Cola to sell its products on Green Mountain's "Keurig Cold" machine, which is set to debut next year. In return for allowing Coca-Cola to wiggle its way into Americans' homes, Coca-Cola could allow Green Mountain an avenue into Europe. For the first quarter, Green Mountain's EPS improved 26%, to $0.96, as net sales rose 4%, to $1.39 billion. With this new deal in place, Green Mountain may look expensive, but I'd suggest it could still have additional upside.
Also vaulting to the upside after reporting its fourth-quarter results was online employment solutions company Monster Worldwide (NYSE:MWW). Monster shares added 22.9% after reporting quarterly revenue of $199 million, a decline of $12 million from the year-ago period, as net income shrank modestly to $0.11 per share from $0.12 in the year-ago period. Comparatively speaking, the consensus estimate had only called for a $0.06 profit per share on $195.3 million in revenue. Looking ahead, Monster is forecasting first-quarter EPS of $0.06-$0.10, which compares favorably to Wall Street's expectation of $0.06 per share. These results would certainly signify that more people are looking for work, boding well for Monster's near-term outlook.
Finally, content delivery and cloud infrastructure service company Akamai Technologies (NASDAQ:AKAM) gained 20.6% after it reported better-than-expected fourth-quarter results. For the quarter, revenue increased 15%, to $436 million, as net income jumped 11%, to $100 million, or $0.55 per share. Wall Street, on the other hand, was expecting Akamai to deliver just $0.52 in EPS on $422.8 million in revenue. This earnings beat could signify that fears of reduced government spending were largely overblown, and they also point to improved operating efficiencies and cost cuts at Akamai that are pushing margins higher. Looking toward the first quarter, Akamai predicts revenue of $426 million-$442 million, which is also nicely ahead of the Street's $413 million estimate. Akamai is no longer trading at the discount it once was, but it still deserves a spot on your watchlist.