Just as stocks had started hitting record highs again, investors suffered another speed bump on Monday in their quest for a sixth straight year of bull-market gains, as the geopolitical situation turned nasty over the weekend. With many analysts worrying how the conflict between Russia and Ukraine will resolve itself, stock markets around the world posted severe declines, even though the Dow and S&P 500 were fortunate to get away with losses of less than 1%. Nevertheless, with huge numbers of falling stocks, substantial gains in Lorillard (LO.DL), J.C. Penney (JCPN.Q), and Ballard Power Systems (BLDP -1.71%) gave shareholders welcome news today.
Lorillard (LO) climbed 9% after news reports suggested that rival Reynolds American (RAI) was pondering a possible takeover attempt of its U.S. tobacco peer. Reynolds has reportedly hired investment bankers to help advise it on a possible buyout, although the Financial Times wasn't certain whether Reynolds would buy all of Lorillard or only a portion of the company. A combination of the No. 2 and No. 3 American tobacco companies would definitely change the landscape of the industry, which has been under pressure for years from declining sales volumes and changing trends. Reynolds shares also jumped almost 5%, although the exact structure of the deal could make a huge difference in assessing the impact on both companies.
J.C. Penney gained another 9%, adding to its gains from last week even though the retailer said that it will no longer provide monthly sales figures to investors. The news might sound like an attempt to hide problematic results, but the trend throughout the industry has been to stop providing sales figures every month, instead offering quarterly numbers. Another reason for the gains might well have been the huge advertising presence the company had during last night's Academy Awards presentation, in a marketing effort that could well make or break Penney's future.
Ballard Power soared 14% as the specialist in fuel-cell technology joined industry peer Plug Power (PLUG -3.03%) in building on impressive gains last week. Plug announced that retail giant Wal-Mart was its partner on a previously announced deal to provide fuel-cell power plants and services to six of the retailer's distribution centers. Analysts today raised their price targets on Plug, but Ballard Power is also a specialist in the industry, and investors are betting that Plug's success should lead to similar performance from Ballard as well.