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Stock Market News Today, Jan. 9, 2014: U.S. stocks are fairly flat today, with all three indexes down just a smidge, weighed after today's jobless claims report that was on par with analyst expectations.
U.S. jobless claims fell by 15,000 to 330,000 last week, which is about what the Street expected. It's a five-week low for applications for unemployment benefits.
In energy futures, light sweet crude oil for February delivery is down 0.6% at $91.80 per barrel, and heating oil is down 0.7% at $2.93 per gallon. Natural gas has plunged 3.6% at $4.06 per million BTUs.
Metals futures are more positive. Gold for February delivery is up 0.2% at $1,228.00 per ounce, while silver for March delivery is up about 0.3% at $19.60.
Today's Stock Market Gainers: Intercept, Conatus, Galectin
The healthcare sector is welcoming a slew of gainers today, with stocks up anywhere from 30% to 300%.
The major success story is Intercept Pharmaceuticals Inc. (Nasdaq: ICPT). ICPT shares are up close to 300% and have hit a record high of $305.
The reason: Its trial to study obeticholic adic, a treatment for nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, has been stopped earlier than planned after already meeting the primary endpoint.
Analysts claim the decision to end trials is an indication of the rush to make available a treatment for NASH, a disease that Intercept CEO claims is at "epidemic proportions."
Riding ICPT's coattails, Conatus Pharmaceuticals Inc. (Nasdaq: CNAT) shares are up about 90% at around $11.80, after easing off a new record high of $14.17 hit today. Galectin Therapeutics Inc. (Nasdaq: GALT) is up near 30% to around $10.90.
In other major stock market gainers today, United Continental Holdings Inc. (NYSE: UAL) is up about 7% today after this major news yesterday...
The airline reported after-hours that December 2013 consolidated traffic rose 4.1% and consolidated capacity increased 0.5% over December 2012.
Finally, shares of Aetna (NYSE: AET) are up nearly 3% after Credit Suisse upgraded it to Outperform from Neutral.
Today's Stock Market Losers: Sprint, Pier 1
While several companies in the healthcare sector are rallying on ICPT's positive news, other stocks in these sectors are faring poorly.
Shares of AMAG Pharmaceuticals Inc. (Nasdaq: AMAG) are down more than 15% today. The company said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration hasn't yet discussed proposed labeling or post-marketing requirements for its supplemental new drug application for Feraheme Injection, which treats iron deficiency anemia. But the target decision date is less than two weeks from now.
Among other stocks weighed by news today, Sprint (NYSE: S) shares are down about 4% after Deutsche Bank analysts cut the company's rating to Hold from Buy.
And shares of Pier 1 Imports Inc. (NYSE: PIR) have plunged about 12% to around $20.52, hitting a day low of $20.27 after it reported December same-store sales fell 5.7% before adjusting for a calendar shift.
In the same period last year, Pier 1's same-store sales increased 8.2%. It's a grim report from Pier 1 because December sales are about 50% of the company's fourth-quarter sales.
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