Did someone call the lumberjacks? Because the broad-based S&P 500 (SNPINDEX:^GSPC) is sinking quickly after commentary from the New York Federal Reserve chief Bull Dudley and a string of weak retail sector earnings reports hit the newswires.
With no economic data on the docket today, investors again turned their attention to individual earnings reports for guidance. What they found today was a jumbled mess of disappointment in the retail sector, with a number of large chains, including Staples, Urban Outfitters and Dick's Sporting Goods disappointing investors in a big way. Retailers are the lifeblood of the U.S. economy since consumer spending accounts for 70% of GDP. Therefore, if these retailers are struggling now then growth in this country may not be as strong as we'd like to think it is.
Furthermore, New York Fed chief Bill Dudley on Tuesday was noted as saying that the Fed would pay very close attention to Wall Street's reaction to rate hikes as the central bank moves its policy stance toward a more neutral approach.
This commentary was worrisome for two reasons. First, it signals that the Fed could be near a point where it's readying to raise the federal funds rate. Higher interest rates are likely to discourage lending for homebuilders and a number of other sectors, and may even adversely affect hiring. Secondly, that the Fed is focused on market reactions rather than the economy could lead to the agency making poor long-term decisions.
By day's end the S&P 500 had shed 12.25 points (-0.65%) to close at 1,872.83. Despite the move lower, three stocks managed to buck the trend and shoot notably higher.
Leading the way today was microelectronic product and test equipment manufacturer Aeroflex Holdings (UNKNOWN:ARX.DL) which surged 25.4% after agreeing to be purchased by British aerospace and defense company Cobham for $10.50 per share. The deal includes the assumption of $540 million in Aeroflex's debt and, according to Cobham CEO Bob Murphy, will help expand Cobham's reach into new commercial markets as well as strengthen its market share in technology markets which naturally have a higher barrier to entry. Further, Cobham anticipates $85 million in annual cost synergies from the deal with it being EPS neutral in 2014 and accretive to EPS by 2015. All told, with Aeroflex's top-line stagnant and the deal coming in at slightly more than 10 times its EBITDA-to-enterprise-value, I'd say both sides are getting a pretty fair shake.
Coming in a very close second behind Aeroflex was clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company Ophthotech (NASDAQ:OPHT) which shot higher by 24.5% after announcing a licensing deal involving its lead investigational wet age-related macular degeneration drug Fovista with Novartis (NYSE:NVS).
Under the terms of the deal, Ophthotech will retain all rights to Fovista within the U.S. while Novartis will get commercial rights in all other countries. In exchange, Ophthotech is eligible to receive more than $1 billion in milestone payments, including $200 million upfront, $130 million in near-term enrollment milestones, $300 million in ex. U.S. regulatory approvals, and $400 million in ex. U.S. sales milestones. The deal certainly removes much of the near-term cash concerns for Ophthotech and aligns the company up with a global marketing giant, but it also has two years to go before we even get the top-line data from its phase 3 trial involving Fovista. As such, with few catalysts on the horizon investors may be best suited to keep a safe distance or waiting for a significant pullback.
Lastly, struggling biopharmaceutical company Dendreon (OTC:DNDNQ) jumped 7.9% after reporting additional data from its ProACT and IMPACT studies utilizing cancer immunotherapy Provenge at the American Urological Association's annual meeting. Its study data demonstrated that Provenge "elicits an immune response associated with an overall survival benefit." Investors were clearly happy to see this survival benefit with the thinking that improved overall survival could help improve sales of its late-stage prostate cancer vaccine. However, we've been here before and Dendreon has frequently failed to capitalize on its therapy from a financial perspective, despite two major restructuring efforts. Dendreon's pipeline is still churning out new ideas, but unless Provenge sales pick up the long-term survival of Dendreon could come into jeopardy even with recent cost-cutting efforts.