Is anyone really shocked that we were once again presented with mixed economic data that pressured the broad-based S&P 500 (SNPINDEX:^GSPC) throughout the latter half of the trading day?
On the bright side, durable goods orders jumped 2.2% in February, the best showing since November, and reversing a two-month decline. The biggest boost came from airline and defense orders which rose 13.6% and 13.5%, respectively. Automotive and auto parts also jumped 3.6%. A continued upward trend for these larger products would bode well for the ongoing U.S. economic recovery.
The other side of the coin from the Mortgage Bankers Association showed a 3.5% decline in weekly loan originations. As the Federal Reserve winds down its quantitative-easing economic stimulus it's possible that fewer long-term U.S. Treasury purchases could push long-term lending rates higher. If that were to happen, given how fickle the U.S. consumer has been about refinancing and purchasing a home anytime interest rates tick even modestly higher, it could put a serious dent into the housing and banking sectors.
By day's end investors digested this mixed data and ultimately pushed the S&P 500 lower by 13.06 points (-0.70%) to close at 1,852.56.
Negativity certainly wasn't the name of the game for clinical-stage biopharma Keryx Biopharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:KERX), which surged 17.4% on the day. Although no readily apparent news was available, it appears the stock soared on a rumor, as reported by Equities.com, that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services may delay its decision to move oral-only end-stage renal disease drugs into the ESRD bundle until 2024. If this rumor proves true, it could allow for itemized payments of select medications through Medicare Part D throughout the next decade, including drugs related to dialysis treatments such as Keryx's Zerenex. It would certainly be good news if true, but playing the rumor game can be very dangerous in an already volatile sector. I would suggest taking today's move with a gigantic grain of salt.
China-based crop and animal nutrients supplier Yongye International (NASDAQ:YONG.DL) also roared higher by 13.3% after the company announced today in an SEC filing that a consortium of buyers including Full Alliance International had, via electronic mail, boosted its going-private offer by 4.6% to $7 per share from $6.69. The previous offer failed to win approval from the majority of shareholders, so investors are clearly excited that this latest private buyout offer may end in success. However, I see very limited upside (less than 4% based on today's close) and considerable downside if Yongye's shareholders again reject this deal. That looks like a reasonable reason to keep your distance.
Finally, specialty value retailer Five Below (NASDAQ:FIVE) advanced 11.4% after it reported better than expected fourth-quarter results. For the quarter, Five Below reported a 22% increase in revenue to $212 million, while earnings per share jumped to $0.47. Wall Street had only expected $207.9 million in sales on $0.45 in EPS. Looking ahead, Five Below matched the Street's fiscal 2015 forecast with its full-year revenue range of $672 million-$678 million on EPS of $0.86-$0.89. While investors seem quite pleased with today's results, I'm a bit worried about its paltry 0.3% increase in comparable-store sales. Such weak organic growth isn't worth 37 times forward earnings, in my opinion.