We knew that a "real" down trading session was around the corner for the broad-based S&P 500 (SNPINDEX:^GSPC), and it finally arrived on Wednesday -- though who knew that it would come on a day when the both pieces of U.S. economic data were positive?
Perhaps the biggest economic news of the day was the Mortgage Bankers Association's release of its weekly origination numbers. This figure, which examines refinancing and new home loan application activity from the previous week, soared by 10.3%, signaling that mortgaging servicing activity may be on the rebound after a late-2013 swoon. Investors are going to want to see this figure improve, as it would be disconcerting if consumers are avoiding refinancing and taking out new home loans with lending rates still near historic lows.
Also in the positive column was a smaller month-over-month Treasury budget deficit of $130 billion. On the surface, $130 billion may seem like an enormous shortfall, which could be one reason why stocks went to the downside today. However, this is down nicely from the $138.7 billion deficit reported in April.
By day's end profit-takers handily outweighed optimists and pushed the S&P 500 down by 6.9 points (-0.35%) to close at 1,943.89. Despite the drop, three companies screamed to the upside by double-digit percentages.
Synaptics (NASDAQ:SYNA), a developer of tech-based human interface solutions, was today's biggest individual gainer, rising 29% after announcing the acquisition of Renesas SP Drivers, the sole supplier of Apple's iPhone display driver chips. Synaptics will pay $475 million for Renesas, with an expected close date in the fourth quarter. Synaptics is financing the deal with a mix of cash on hand and debt financing. The deal itself should greatly improve Synaptics' human interface products portfolio and will be immediately accretive to adjusted earnings per share.
In a separate press release, Synaptics boosted its fourth-quarter revenue forecast to a range of $300 million-$310 million from a prior forecast of $275 million-$295 million, reflecting a top-line increase of 30%-35%. Synaptics' guidance raise comes on the heels of better than expected performance in both its PC and mobile products segments. With today's buyout looking like an instant win for investors, Synaptics' run may not be done.
For the quarter, Ulta delivered 22.5% sales growth to $713.7 million and comparable-store growth of 8.7%, compared to "just" 6.7% comparable-store growth last year. Direct-to-consumer sales also soared by 72.3%. On an adjusted earnings basis, EPS increased 18.5% to $0.77. Wall Street had expected just $699.7 million in sales and $0.74 in EPS. While it's tough to argue against Ulta's superior growth rate, its forward P/E of 22 may not leave a lot of room for further upside. I'd certainly suggest adding the stock to your watchlist, but I'd patiently wait for a pullback before even considering taking a position.
Lastly, Northwest Biotherapeutics (OTC:NWBO) gained 11.9% after reporting additional positive data on DCVax-Direct in a phase 1/2 study involving patients with inoperable solid tumors. According to its early morning press release, all nine patients who have received the fourth of six injections have shown some degree of response, including tumor shrinkage, tumor cell necrosis, and/or disease stabilization. Overall, 13 of 20 patients who have had at least three injections have demonstrated some level of response to the treatment. The good news here is that as the six-injection treatment course progresses this response figure may rise. What will ultimately matter, though, is overall survival in later-stage studies. I'd consider holding off on the celebration until all the data is in, but I would strongly suggest you add NW Bio to your watchlist.