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S&P 500 Just Shy of Record, BlackBerry Whiplash, Penney Problems

Dan Berman
Hot Stock Minute

The S&P 500 once again tested its record today, coming within a point of its closing high of 1,565.15, set on October 9, 2007. The benchmark index ended the day up 0.78% at 1,563.77. Markets were buoyed by an upbeat report on durable goods from the Commerce Department. Meanwhile the Standard & Poor's Case-Shiller home-price index delivered encouraging numbers. The report registered its biggest yearly increase in home prices in January since the summer of 2006. That report seemed to overshadow the weaker-than-expected number of new home sales as well as consumer confidence data.

You've probably heard of Blackberry thumb -the repetitive strain blamed on BlackBerry (BBRY) devices. But now BlackBerry shareholders may need to get neck braces for a different ailment: whiplash. That's because the stock just seems to keep jutting in different directions. Today shares prices climbed 1.6%, after giving up more than 4.5% yesterday. Last Friday's release of the Z10 smart phone is behind the recent volatility. First there were high hopes for the Z10, but now that's turned to disappointment. BlackBerry reports its quarterly earnings on Thursday, though they won't include sales from the U.S. launch of the Z10. But take note: shares have moved an average of 16% the last three times the company reported.

The bleeding seems impossible for JC Penney (JCP) to stop. Shares were down an additional 1.2% today. That followed losses yesterday of more than 1.6%. An analyst at BMO Capital Markets downgraded JCP from marketperform to underperform, and said at this rate the company may go bankrupt next year. The company's stock is now at less than 40% of its 52-week high, which was a year ago tomorrow.

Shares of Ziopharm Oncology (ZIOP) plummeted over 60% today on news that the company's experimental treatment called palifosfamide failed in a late-stage study. The stock had been rallying in recent weeks after Ziopharm said the drug was being tested for patients with soft tissue sarcoma which forms in connective tissue. The company also announced today that it's immediately switching its strategy to focus on synthetic biology programs. The shift will require a company restructuring.

Tesla (TSLA) shares rose again today following a 5% spike yesterday afternoon. The rise began when company co-founder Elon Musk sent out a tweet reading: "Really exciting announcement coming on Thursday. Am going to put my money where my mouth is in "v" major way." It was retweeted more than 450 times, but also sparked questions as to whether some remarks are appropriate on social networks.