If you're into somewhat confusing moves, then you'll love today's trading action in the broad-based S&P 500 (SNPINDEX:^GSPC), which oddly spent most of the day in negative territory despite two positive economic reports that would normally be expected to push the market higher.
The big report of the day was the release of the weekly initial jobless claims data, which showed a decline of 6,000 claims to a seasonally adjusted 312,000. A drop in jobless claims is viewed as a positive by investors because it might signal that fewer people are having trouble finding work. With seasonally adjusted claims staying put near the 300,000 mark, it's quite possible the U.S. unemployment rate could drop even further.
Also providing a boost to optimists was the release of May's leading economic indicators, which grew by 0.5%, its fourth-consecutive month of gains. This strong reading comes on the heels of the FOMC's meeting yesterday, as it plans to potentially get more aggressive with lending-rate hikes in 2015 and 2016, and signals that the economy is finally ready to stand on its own two feet once again.
Despite fighting off profit-taking pressure for much of the day, the S&P 500 still managed to trudge higher by 2.50 points (0.13%), to close at another all-time record of 1,959.48.
Topping the charts today was sensor manufacturer Measurement Specialties (NASDAQ:MEAS.DL), which gained 10.7% after TE Connectivity (NYSE:TEL) announced it was purchasing the company for $1.7 billion, including debt. TE Connectivity anticipates that the global sensor market will grow by an average of 8% per year through 2019, so the move to acquire Measurement Specialties should help improve its adjusted profits by the mid-single digits in the first year following completion of the deal. With solid product diversity, TE Connectivity should remain a solid long-term option for investors, while at 23 times forward earnings, Measurement Specialties shareholders appear to have received a more than ample premium for their shares.
Following closely behind Measurement Specialties is small-cap miner McEwen Mining (NYSE:MUX), which jumped 9.8% along with much of the metals sector, as gold prices soared $50 per ounce. The primary catalyst pushing gold prices higher was yesterday's Federal Open Market Committee meeting, which slowed down its growth prospects for the U.S. economy in 2014. When gray clouds emerge over the U.S. economy, investors occasionally turn to hedged bets such as gold as a safety net -- thus the significant move higher today in the underlying metal. While McEwen didn't have any company-specific news sending its shares higher, a higher gold price, if sustainable, could yield beefier margins for gold miners like McEwen.
Finally, struggling smartphone manufacturer BlackBerry (NYSE:BB) surged 9.7% after reporting better-than-expected first-quarter results. For the quarter, BlackBerry's revenue plunged to just $966 million from $3.1 billion in the year-ago period. However, tight cost controls, including job cuts, and operational improvements led the company to report $23 million in net income, reversing a year-ago loss of $84 million. Furthermore, gross margin improved almost 13 full percentage points, to 46.7%. While it's encouraging to see BlackBerry moving back toward profitable sustainability, cutting costs is only a temporary solution. Without any true innovation, I'm afraid the upside in this stock is very limited.