Poor housing data was bound to catch up to the S&P 500 (SNPINDEX:^GSPC) at some point – we know it's been a crutch that's pulled down the market before – and it appears to have struck once again, ending the S&P 500's six-day winning streak.
The big culprit was new homes sales, which tumbled 14.5% in March to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 384,000, their lowest rate since July. Whereas most companies have blamed the weather for just about every corporate ailment in the first quarter, the weather was perfectly fine in March lending to a serious concern about a slowdown in the housing sector. With estimates calling for a seasonally adjusted rate closer to 450,000, this was an enormous miss.
On the other hand, stronger-than-expected earnings results from a number of companies helped contain the downside to a very minimal move. With some of the largest companies in the world slated to report this week and next, the markets could be in for some wild volatility.
By day's end the S&P 500 had given back 4.16 points (-0.22%), decisively ending its more than week-long up-streak, and closed at 1,875.39.
Pushing to the head of the pack today was online and mobile-based money transfer service company Xoom (UNKNOWN:XOOM.DL) which advanced 16.9% after reporting better-than-expected first-quarter results. For the quarter, Xoom delivered a 49% increase in revenue as the number of transaction completed rose 42% and the number of active customers jumped 34%. More importantly, its $35.9 million in revenue and $0.06 per share profit handily topped the $34.3 million in revenue and $0.04 loss per share projections from Wall Street. As I noted earlier, Xoom isn't particularly cheap with its shares still trading over 100 times this year's forecasted EPS, however, its growth rate is strong enough to command such a valuation. I would suggest risk-willing and high growth-seeking investors give Xoom a deeper dive.
Natural gas royalty trust Hugoton Royalty Trust (NYSE:HGT) vaulted higher by 14.8%, an unusually strong move for a royalty trust, after it announced a favorable ruling in an arbitration proceeding. Without getting too technical, according to its afternoon press release an arbitration board has unanimously awarded the Trustee $6.1 million stemming from a $37 million settlement involving XTO Energy and another party. The end result will be a $4,386,396 distribution from XTO to Hugoton that should be distributed to shareholders in May. Royalty trusts are attractive because of their incredible yields (Hugoton has paid out 10.7% on a trailing 12-month basis), and a beefier payout is bound to attract buyers as we're seeing today. I would, however, caution that natural gas prices are quite volatile and Hugoton doesn't look to be a particularly intriguing buy after today's pop.
Finally, carbonated beverage machine maker SodaStream (NASDAQ:SODA) spiked higher by 10.7% after rumors swirled on Wall Street that the company is in talks to sell a 10% stake in the company to coffee giant Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX). This isn't the first time rumors have hit SodaStream, with the company's shares rising previously on the notion that PepsiCo may have been interested in the company. The move could make sense for both parties with Coca-Cola recently taking a 10% stake in Keurig Green Mountain. Such an investment could expose Starbucks' cold beverages to the SodaStream at-home consumer while also giving SodaStream a method to expand beyond the U.S. markets.
Despite the excitement, I'd prefer not to focus solely on these rumors and would instead encourage investors to rely on SodaStream's financial results. Even though those results weren't up to snuff last quarter, I suspect its niche should afford it plenty of opportunity over the long term.