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The Dow Jones Industrial Average reversed a streak of three consecutive weekly losses and added 201 points on Friday. Why the gain? A declining dollar raised enthusiasm over future corporate earnings, while the markets saw better-than-expected results from Nike Corp. (NYSE: NKE) and a big report from a biotech leader. In addition to the gains of the Dow Jones today, the S&P 500 traded above 2,100, while the Nasdaq was back above 5,000.
Investors are keeping their focus on the Federal Reserve this week after the FOMC meeting, and will look to speeches from several members of the central bank next week for clues for the next rate increase.
Let's take a look at the scorecard from the Dow Jones today.
Dow: 18,127.65, +168.62, +0.94%
S&P 500: 2,108.10, +18.83, +0.90%
Nasdaq: 5,026.42, +34.04, +0.68%
What Moved the Stock Market Today: The markets were on the rise in part to a big announcement from drug maker Biogen Idec Inc. (Nasdaq: BIIB). Shares jumped more than 9.5% after the company released a positive report on its latest drug aimed at treating early-stage Alzheimer's disease. Although the preliminary study is early in its results, the promising drug has shown evidence of reducing cognitive decline. The iShares Nasdaq Biotechnology Index ETF (Nasdaq: IBB) was up 0.3% on the day.
Oil prices were in focus again today after Baker Hughes Inc. (NYSE: BHI) released its latest weekly rig count for U.S. producers. According to BHI data, the U.S. rig count declined by 5% last week, falling to its lowest level since March 2011. The U.S. rig count is falling at the fastest annual pace since 1986. The news sent WTI crude oil prices, to its biggest gain since February. U.S. crude prices jumped 4% on the day. Brent crude oil, priced in London, gained 1.3% to tick back above $55 per barrel.
Here's a breakdown of today's other top stories and stock performances:
- Earnings Beat: Shares of Nike Inc. jumped nearly 4.5% in pre-market hours on news the company reported a quarterly net income jump of 16%. The sports apparel retailer reported fiscal third-quarter earnings of $0.89 per share on revenue of $7.46 billion. This report beat Wall Street per-share projections of $0.84 on $7.62 billion in sales. The news wasn't surprising to us given that we called the stock's bounce just two weeks ago. For a recap of why we like Nike stock, be sure to click here.
- To the Skies: Shares of Amazon.com Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN) were up 1.5% today on news that the FAA has granted the company approval to test delivery drones in Washington state. The federal agency's approval is a big step forward for Amazon, as it aims to bring its "Prime Air" delivery service forward in major metropolitan areas. The deal will allow the firm to test the service and possibly bring it to the wider population in the coming years.
Merger Mania: The nation's largest mall owner, Simon Property Group Inc. (NYSE: SPG), has said it has made its "best and final offer" for its smaller rival Macerich Co. (NYSE: MAC). The news comes a few days after Macerich announced it has adopted a shareholder rights plan (a.k.a. Poison Pill) to prevent a hostile takeover. The board of Macerich said that Simon's most recent offer far undervalues the company. Shares of MAC slid more than 4.5%. SPG shares were up more than 2.5%.
- Turnaround Try: Shares of SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. (Nasdaq: SEAS) were up nearly 5% this afternoon on news that the firm has named a new President and CEO in Joel Manby. The company has struggled over the last year in the wake of animal rights concerns and declining park attendance and revenues. SeaWorld is one of the key stocks that Jim Rickards predicted would slide just a year ago, and investors should click here to know which stocks they must avoid in the event of a severe market downturn.
- Apple a Day: Shares of Apple stock were up 0.3% on the day, as rumors continue to swirl about pending company announcements and product and service debuts. Today, Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) traded on news that the company is looking to debut Apple TV product at its World Wide Developers Conference in July. The new interactive box will likely include third-party apps, voice control with Siri, and internet-TV service.
Money Morning Tip of the Day: General Electric Co. (NYSE: GE) stock is a "Buy." It's a solid dividend payer that will see increased investor demand on several factors.
Today's tip comes from Money Morning Executive Editor Bill Patalon:
When a Wall Street investment bank, hedge-fund manager, or sell-side analyst starts backing a stock, it can attract the kind of liquidity that drives up its value in a big way.
And that's just what's happening with General Electric Co. (NYSE: GE), the makeover-in-progress conglomerate we first recommended in January 2014.
GE's shares have slipped about 4.75% since we recommended it (although we're at breakeven if you include dividends). So we may have been a bit early on our call.
But we weren't wrong.
We believe several factors – the surge in the U.S. dollar, the slowing global economy, and the odds that the Federal Reserve will soon raise interest rates – will bolster investor demand for stocks like GE. It's a solid dividend payer, a turnaround in the making, and a stealth player in some new markets.
Suddenly, we're not alone in our views on GE stock.
Tom Huber, who has run the T. Rowe Price Dividend Growth Fund (MUTF: PRDGX) since 2000, named GE as his "best stock pick" in a recent Barron's interview.
"After not owning General Electric for many years, we've come back to the stock in the past six months," he told the investment weekly. "It makes sense right now to own some large-cap, high-yielding names with durable businesses."
The current consensus on GE is $29 a share – with a high-water estimate of $33.
The bottom line: We've been saying for more than a year that GE is a stock you want to own. Now a heavy-hitter mutual-fund manager is telling folks the same thing.
To read more about why GE is a "Buy" right now, check out Patalon's recent Private Briefing column: A Big-Time Fund Manager Shares His "Best Pick"