With the month of January more than half over, investors had hoped that the stock market might eventually get back on a more-even footing. Friday got stocks moving in the right direction, and investors were pleased to see the price of crude oil recover to levels well above the $30 per-barrel mark, and lift the entire energy sector.
Big losses in key component stocks held the Dow's gains to just 1%, but other major market benchmarks posted much larger gains. Advances in Golar LNG (GLNG 1.64%), Sprint (S), and WisdomTree Investments (WT 1.67%) confirmed that the breadth of the market's upward move went well beyond the traditional oil and gas production company realm.
Golar LNG soared more than 50% after the liquefied natural-gas transporter announced it signed a memorandum of understanding with Schlumberger (SLB 2.51%), the oil-services giant. The deal establishes a cooperative agreement on developing greenfield, brownfield, and stranded gas reserves.
Golar will contribute LNG-related assets and technology, while Schlumberger will provide bigger-picture knowledge, along with resources and financial capital. The deal is intended to make what would otherwise be uneconomical areas of natural-gas development financially viable by getting liquefied natural gas infrastructure into the area, as well as to accelerate getting known and proven gas reserves online and into production. Given the disparate sizes of Schlumberger and Golar, it makes sense that Golar's gains were so huge on news of the big partnership.
Sprint jumped 15%. Interestingly, most market participants attributed the move to what seemed like an innocuous move from the telecom company to announce its quarterly earnings a week earlier than the date it had originally set. In addition, one Wall Street analyst noted that, even though the company faces some long-term challenges, Sprint doesn't appear to be in immediate danger of not having enough liquidity. With the mobile-network industry in a painful price war involving price cuts for monthly plans, and huge incentives to get subscribers on other networks to switch providers, Sprint will need to demonstrate in its latest financials that it can survive intense competition, and keep up with its larger rivals in the industry.
Finally, WisdomTree Investments gained 10%, responding favorably to the change in investor sentiment. Before today's jump, the manager of exchange-traded funds had lost half its value just since late November, as fears of a bear market and its corresponding negative impact on assets under management weighed on the stock's prospects.
Yet WisdomTree got a vote of confidence from analysts at Credit Suisse, who said that the ETF manager's financial results would likely fare better than most expect. Many expect consolidation in the asset management industry to occur over the next few years, and WisdomTree's niche products make it a compelling target for an acquisition-minded company looking to boost its own future growth.