Every time the market has shown signs of pulling back this year, it has rallied strong. This week was no exception, with stocks up nicely the last two days. The jump in the market was somewhat surprising, though, as earnings were generally lackluster and weekly jobless claims trended up again. On the plus side, pending home sales came in much higher than expected, perhaps signaling a bottom in housing.
The Homebuilder Stocks Index was the top performing tickerspy Index on the day, led by Ryland Group (RYL - News) with a 14% gain. The Stem Cell Stocks Index was the day's worst performing tickerspy Index, with BioTime (BTX - News) down -5%.
Stocks climbed on the day, with the Dow up 114 points to 13,205. The S&P rose 9 points to 1,400, while the Nasdaq jumped 21 points to 3,051. Oil edged up 43 cents to $104.55 a barrel, while gold climbed $18.20 to $1,660.50 an ounce.
In economic news, the Labor Department said weekly jobless claims fell by -1,000 last week to 388,000, but that was well above the 375,000 claims economists expected. Elsewhere, the National Association of Realtors said pending home sales rose 4.1% in March to the highest level since April 2010. The index jumped to 101.4 in March from an upwardly revised 97.4 in February.
In earnings news, Exxon Mobil (XOM - News) the largest U.S. oil company, said its first-quarter profit fell -11% to $9.45 billion, or $2.00 per share, from $10.7 billion, or $2.14 a share, a year earlier. Revenue rose 9% to $124.1 billion. Oil production dropped -8% while natural gas output fell -3%. Shares of Exxon Mobil fell -0.9%. Nearly 1,000 pros held Exxon Mobil in their portfolios at the end of Q4 and nearly 3,300 tickerspy members own the stock in their portfolios.
Shares of Potash Corp. (POT - News) slid -3.2% after the world's largest fertilizer producer said its first-quarter profit fell to $491 million, or 56 cents a share, from $732 million, or 84 cents, a year earlier. Analysts had expected EPS of 63 cents. The company lowered its 2012 profit guidance to $3.20-$3.60 per share from $3.40-$4.00. Analysts were expecting a profit of $3.64 a share. Potash expects second-quarter EPS of 90 cents to $1.00, below the $1.06 Wall Street was expecting.
Shares of Akamai Technologies (AKAM - News), the content delivery network (CDN) provdier, plunged -14.5% after the company issued lower-than-expected Q2 EPS guidance. Its first-quarter slid -15% to $43 million, or 24 cents a share, from $51 million, or 26 cents a share, a year earlier. Adjusted EPS came in at 41 cents. Revenue rose to $319 million from $276 million. Analysts had expected a profit of 38 cents a share on revenue of $311 million. Looking forward, Akamai forecast second-quarter earnings of 36-38 cents per share on revenue of $322-$330 million. Analysts were looking for EPS of 39 cents on revenue of $315 million.
Soda and snacks maker PepsiCo (PEP - News) said its first-quarter profit fell to $1.13 billion, or 71 cents per share, from $1.14 billion, or 71 cents per share, a year earlier. On an adjusted basis, PepsiCo earned 69 cents. Revenue rose 4% to $12.43 billion. Analysts had expected EPS of 66 cents on $12.35 billion in sales. Shares of New York-based PepsiCo fell -0.5%. Nearly 430 pros held PepsiCo in their portfolios at the end of Q4 and nearly 1,400 tickerspy members own the stock in their portfolios.
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Marc Chandler, head of global currency strategy at Brown Brothers Harriman, has both good news and bad news for …