Stocks ended the session mixed after the latest Fed statement included a slight downgrade to its economic outlook. The Dow hit a record intraday high of 15,634, but pared gains and closed lower by 0.1%. Again it was the Nasdaq that outperformed the benchmarks, rising 0.3%. Investors took positively to a host of economic data released in the morning. The Commerce Department measured Q2 GDP at an annual rate of 1.7%. That beat estimates which ranged from 0.9% and 1.1%. Meanwhile, the ADP payroll report for July also surpassed expectations with a reading of 200,000 non-farm private sector jobs added for the month. Expectations had been for about 180,000 new jobs.
There was a first today for Facebook (FB) as the stock popped above its IPO price of $38 in early trading, something it hadn't done since the day the company went public. Shares hit an intraday high of $38.31 before turning lower to close the day down 2%. Facebook stock is up 40% since the company wowed Wall Street last week with its quarterly report. Not only did the social network surpass expectations with profits and ad revenues, it showed progress with mobile revenue. In addition, anecdotal reports that the site is waning in popularity with younger users now appear to be wrong.
Air Products and Chemicals (APD) rose 3% on news that Bill Ackman's Pershing Square hedge fund has taken a 9.8% stake is the company. At $2.2 billion it's Ackman's largest-ever activism play. Air Products supplies hydrogen and semiconductor materials to places like hospitals. Earlier this month, Ackman began a guessing game on his next target which pointed many to Air Products and sent the stock climbing 13%. The Wall Street Journal reports Ackman doesn't intend to press for a break-up, but instead will push for operational improvements.
Meanwhile, a stock that Ackman has shorted, Herbalife (HLF) spike more than 9% on news that billionaire investor George Soros has taken a large long position in the company. Soros joins Carl Icahn in his backing of the nutritional supplements maker. Sources tell our partner CNBC that Herbalife is now one of Soros' top-three holdings.
Comcast (CMCSA) moved more than 5% higher on its quarterly report. The company posted profits of 65-cents a share when expectations were for 63-cents. Revenue also beat the consensus at $16.3-billion when estimates were for $16-billion. The company says it was helped by stronger growth in high speed internet customers. There was also more than a 20% rise in operating cash flow at its NBC Universal unit.
Garmin (GRMN) drove 7% higher after reporting both profits and revenues that easily beat estimates. The company posted earnings of 76-cents a share compared with expectations of 65-cents. Revenues were $697-million when estimates had been for $665.8-million. Investors did not seem bothered by the company's warning that declining sales in its personal navigation devices are likely as more people use smartphone apps offering GPS.
Three pharmaceutical companies made big moves on news they're all being brought under one roof. Cubist Pharmaceuticals (CBST) climbed 9% as it revealed it is acquiring smaller drug makers Trius (TSRX) and Optimer (OPTR). Trius was the biggest winner of the tree companies involved shooting up 20%. Optimer was the loser in the bunch dropping more than 5%. Cubist was already considered one of the few big players in the U.S. when it comes to antibiotics. The acquisitions give it more current offerings and a larger pipeline.