On a day filled with mixed economic data, investors made it very clear that they weren't too pleased with the S&P 500's recent jaunt to 1,900 and proceeded to push the index markedly lower.
Optimists looking for a bright spot in today's pile of red ink will find it in the initial weekly jobless claims report, which showed a whopping drop of 24,000 claims to a seasonally adjusted 297,000, its lowest level in seven years. Lower jobless claims would suggest that fewer people are having trouble finding work and that the jobs market is improving.
On the other hand, industrial production was a disaster, dropping 0.6% in April compared to a revised estimate of a 0.9% gain in March. Some of this could be polar vortex-induced since utilities were one of the primary culprits for the drop in production, but it could also signal endemic weakness throughout the economy. This has investors worried given the already lofty valuation of some high-profile companies.
Similarly, the Consumer Price Index jaunted 0.3% higher in April, compared to 0.2% in March. As the Producer Price Index rose 0.6% in April, higher prices for consumers aren't too big of a shock. While some inflation in prices is good for the economy and signals improving demand from consumers, too much in the way of price increases could cause consumers to halt some spending, ultimately proving bad for the economy.
And once again housing had to get its two cents in on the negative end with the National Association of Home Builders' Housing Market Index for May reading 45, down 46 in April and well below what economists had forecast. Despite historically low lending rates consumers simply aren't buying new homes like they once were. Combine this with the Federal Reserve's taper of quantitative easing, which could result in higher lending rates, and there's genuine reasons to be concerned about the health of the housing sector.
By day's end investors had hit the exits and pushed the S&P 500 lower by 17.68 points (0.94%) to close at 1,870.85. However, just like yesterday, the health-care sector came to the rescue for those needing a ray of sunshine on the cloudy day.
No stock led to the upside more than home health and hospice care provider Gentiva Health Services (UNKNOWN:GTIV.DL), which pushed 61.9% higher after rival Kindred Healthcare (NYSE:KND) disclosed a $514 million bid for the company. The terms of the deal would have been for $7 in cash and $7 in Kindred Healthcare common stock, and would have included Gentiva's roughly $1.1 billion in net debt, but Gentiva quickly rejected the idea of a merger.
I believe combining these two businesses would make a lot of strategic sense, with the combined entity saving on costs and Kindred likely seeing an earnings accretive boost almost immediately. It would also give the combined entity a presence in 47 of the 50 U.S. states. While I doubt this is the end of this story (given that Kindred may take its offer directly to Gentiva's shareholders) I believe we've witnessed a cap in the near-term upside in Gentiva shares given its lofty debt levels.
Clinical-stage cancer-focused biopharm Clovis Oncology (NASDAQ:CLVS) rallied 16% today after the company announced its intention to unveil new data on its three leading drug candidates -- CO-1686, rucaparib, and lucitanib -- at the American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting on May 31. Investor anticipation is clearly high, especially for CO-1686, after its early results on patients with the T790M mutation in non-small cell lung cancer demonstrated intriguing results. I continue to believe Clovis is one of the more overvalued biopharmaceutical companies around. If you recall, it nosedived after CO-101, which showed early stage promise as well, wasn't up to snuff in a midstage trial in late 2012. I would suggest that until we have tangible later-stage evidence to latch onto, this is a company best left alone.
Lastly, Momenta Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:MNTA), a developer of branded and generic pharmaceuticals, gained 11% after investors learned that Teva Pharmaceutical (NYSE:TEVA) lost its bid to block the introduction of generic version of its blockbuster multiple sclerosis drug Copaxone. Momenta is one manufacturer of a Copaxone biosimilar and, according to research firm Maxim, the company may launch its generic version as soon as next month. This would be great news for Momenta as Copaxone now has nearly $5 billion sales potential. Although it'll take some time to build up its sales, and it won't be the only Copaxone biosimilar on the market, this generic introduction could easily push Momenta into profitable territory for the full year in 2015.
Sean Williams has no material interest in any companies mentioned in this article. You can follow him on CAPS under the screen name TMFUltraLong, track every pick he makes under the screen name TrackUltraLong, and check him out on Twitter, where he goes by the handle @TMFUltraLong.
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