Closing Update: Dow, S&P 500 Nearing High-Water Marks, Carried Today By Energy, Healthcare Stocks
Stocks ended higher today, with the Dow Jones Industrial Index climbing to a five-year high, led by energy stocks as crude oil pushed past $97 per barrel amid rising Mid-East tensions. Healthcare and other defensive sectors also rose, in a sign some market participants attributed to growing numbers of retail investors getting back into the market.
Shares began today little changed after a measure of consumer confidence fell to its lowest level in more than a year, offsetting momentum supplied by earlier reports of another big rise in U.S. housing prices during November. But the market moved higher as the session progressed, with the S&P 500 set to finish its best month since October 2011.
Better-than-expected earnings helped propel today's gains, with Valero ( VLO ) rising more than 11% after the refiner reported adjusted net income of $1.88 per share, crushing analyst expectations by $0.70. Quarterly revenue was flat at $34.7 billion.
Eli Lilly and Company ( LLY ) and Pfizer Inc. ( PFE ) underpinned gains in the healthcare sector, with LLY beating Street estimates by $0.07 a share after reporting an $0.85 Q4 profit, with new products making up for revenue lost to patent expirations and generic competition.
Consumer confidence plunged in January to its lowest level in more than a year, reflecting higher Social Security taxes that left most Americans with less take-home pay. The Thomson Reuters/Conference Board consumer confidence index fell to a final 58.6 reading for January, down from a 66.7 score in December and the lowest mark since November 2011.
Home prices in 20 major U.S. cities increased 5.5% in November, marking their biggest jump in six years, according to the Case-Shiller 20-city home price index.
Crude oil continued its rise in world commodities markets, with the March contract ending $1.13 higher at $97.57 per barrel, climbing as high as $97.82 after Egypt's defense chief warned that political unrest could bring about the "collapse" of the state, increasing pressure on President Mohamed Mursi.
Other commodities were mostly higher. February gold rose $7.50 to $1,660.60 per ounce while March silver added 42 cents to settle at $31.20 per ounce. March copper rose 3 cents to $3.69 per pound. March natural gas fell 5 cents to 43.26 per 1 million BTU.
Here's where the U.S. markets stood at the end of regular trading:
Dow Jones Industrial Average up 0.52% to 13,954.42
S&P 500 up 0.51% to 1,507.84.
Nasdaq Composite Index down 0.02% to 3,153.66
Hang Seng Index down 0.07%
Shanghai China Composite Index up 0.53%
FTSE 100 Index up 0.71%
(+) SOMH, Agrees to a $64.4-million buyout by Lakeland Bancorp ( LBAI ), with shareholders receiving either $12 a share in cash or 1.1962 shares of LBAI common stock for each share they currently own. LBAI shares are lower today.
(+) IPAR, Reports 6.3% rise in 2012 net sale to a record $654.1 million, beating its prior guidance of $632 million due to better-than-expected Q4 sales. IPAR will issue its Q4 results on March 12.
(+) SWIR, Selling its AirCard business to Netgear ( NTGR ) for $138 million in cash plus another $6.5 million in assumed liabilities. The company also said it is exploring alternatives to return a portion of the proceeds to shareholders, pending approval by the Toronto Stock Exchange. NTGR is lower today.
(+) PLXT, Raised to a Buy rating from a Hold at Wunderlich after the company reports non-GAAP net income of $0.06 a share during Q4, $0.05 better than estimates. Trails analyst forecasts for revenue, generating $23.4 million in sales, $1.45 million under the analyst consensus.
(-) SANM, Fiscal Q1 profit misses by $0.05. Guides Q2 below consensus.
(-) VMW, Offers Q1 and FY13 revenue guidance trailing the Wall Street consensus, triggering a slew of analyst downgrades. Also cutting about 900 jobs. Q4 earnings of $0.81 a share beat by $0.03. Revenues were in-line.
(-) OXF, Suspends Q4 cash distributions on its common and subordinated units, citing a need to preserve liquidity.
(-) ANAC, Said its prospective treatment for toenail fungus resulted in a "complete cure" during Phase III testing, but still appears mostly inferior to a competing drug. Results from a second Phase III study of tavaborole are due out in March.