Unlike the previous two days, it was a notably exciting day for economic data releases, which helped push the broad-based S&P 500 (SNPINDEX:^GSPC) higher, and put an end to its two-day losing streak.
No piece of data was more awaited than the release of the Federal Open Market Committee's meeting minutes from June 18. Although the FOMC is forthcoming with its policy actions following its meeting, investors like to get a deeper dive into the discussions, which usually occur a few weeks later. According to the FOMC's minutes, if the U.S. economy continues to progress as expected, it will reduce QE3 by $10 billion with each successive meeting, and remove it in its entirety with a $15 billion cut following its October meeting.
On one hand, the removal of QE3 is great news for the U.S. economy, as it signals its ability to stand on its own without financial assistance. On the other hand, QE3 has been pumping what's essentially free money into the U.S. economy, and investors are concerned that halting this stimulus could have a negative effect on housing and lending rates.
The other big release today was the Mortgage Bankers Associations' Mortgage Index, which showed that loan originations improved 1.9% from the prior week. This may not sound like much, but it's a nice bump from a string of drops in recent weeks. However, I would still opine that the housing market is sitting in a precarious position with loan originations well off their May 2013 highs, and consumers not biting very hard to purchase or refinance with mortgage rates nearing a one-year low.
With better clarity regarding QE3 comes a calmer group of investors, and that helped push the S&P 500 higher by 9.12 points (0.46%), to close at 1,972.83.
Topping the charts, and leading all individual stocks to the upside today, was drone developer AeroVironment (NASDAQ:AVAV), which rallied 13.2% after the company reported better-than-expected fourth-quarter results. For the quarter, AeroVironment reported a 36% increase in revenue, to $73.5 million, as its adjusted EPS jumped to $0.27 compared to an adjusted EPS loss in the year-ago quarter of $0.21. By comparison, Wall Street was only expecting $0.23 in EPS on $69.6 million in revenue. Looking ahead, the company issued a full-year sales forecast of $250 million to $270 million, which is right in line with the current consensus.
AeroVironment offers a business model that makes a lot of sense on paper, but it's no longer a Wall Street secret. In other words, it's pretty evident that drones are going to represent an integral component for the future of the U.S. military; thus, the company's future orders should remain strong. However, everyone already knows this, which means that AeroVironment's growth isn't going to surprise too many investors. While its growth prospects are highly intriguing, I would wait for a significant pullback before considering AeroVironment as an investment.
Mexican telecommunications giant America Movil (NYSE:AMX) (NASDAQ:AMOV) surged 10.1% on the day after the company, headed by billionaire Carlos Slim, announced that it would sell enough of its assets to bring its market share below 50% in Mexico. New telecommunications regulations in Mexico, which would have required it to allow competitors to use some of its infrastructure services for free, are prompting this move. Currently, America Movil controls about 80% of all landline and 70% of all mobile services in Mexico.
Shareholders seem pleased with the move as it will give America Movil a way to capitalize on the sale of its assets. In addition, narrowing down its assets could actually be a catalyst, as it will make America Movil's revenue and profit generation potentially easier to understand for investors. Even following today's pop, America Movil isn't particularly expensive at 13 times forward earnings, and I would encourage long-term-focused investors to give this telecom giant a deeper dive.
Lastly, RNAi-focused clinical-stage biopharmaceutical Arrowhead Research (NASDAQ:ARWR) added 8.1% after receiving positive commentary last night from Deutsche Bank's biotechnology director Robyn Kamauskas on CNBC's Fast Money. According to Kamauskas, Arrowhead has between 100% and 200% upside and 20% downside, and it could be a potential takeover target.
Arrowhead definitely has a number of chances to hit a home run with four investigational compounds being tested both clinically and pre-clinically across six indications, including what could be a highly lucrative hepatitis B treatment. But, as I've stated in the past, my biggest concern with Arrowhead is its $640 million valuation. Considering that three of its six indications are pre-clinical or pre-IND, and the remainder are generally early or midstage, investors are probably counting their chickens before they're hatched. I'd suggest sticking to the sidelines in the meantime, and waiting for more concrete data to latch onto before jumping in the water.