Benchmarks ended higher on Tuesday boosted by better-than-expected corporate results. Comcast, Harley-Davidson, Netflix, Travelers and United Tech posted upbeat quarterly earnings. New deals in the health care sector also contributed to the bullish sentiment. A modest fall in existing home sales data in March hardly impacted the benchmarks.
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The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI.V) gained 0.4% to close Tuesday’s trading session at 16,514.37. The Standard & Poor 500 (S&P 500) too rose 0.4% to finish at 1,879.55. The tech-laden Nasdaq Composite Index went up almost 1% to 4,161.46. The fear-gauge CBOE Volatility Index (:VIX) dropped 0.5% to settle at 13.19. Total volume for the day was roughly 5.88 billion shares, lower than this month’s average of 6.70 billion. Declining stocks were outnumbered by advancing stocks on the NYSE. For 26% stocks that declined, 71% advanced.
The day’s encouraging quarterly results had a positive impact on the broader markets. Comcast Corporation (NASDAQ:CMCSA) reported strong financial results for the first quarter of 2014. The telecommunications company reported quarterly adjusted earnings per share of 68 cents, outpacing the Zacks Consensus Estimate of 64 cents. Growth in its high-speed internet and business services units boosted earnings.
Harley-Davidson, Inc. (NYSE:HOG) posted a 22.2% year-over-year rise in earnings to $1.21 per share in the first quarter of 2014 from 99 cents in the year-ago quarter. Earnings also surpassed the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $1.08 per share.
Netflix, Inc.’s (NASDAQ:NFLX) first quarter 2014 earnings of 86 cents a share outpaced the Zacks Consensus Estimate of 83 cents per share. The earnings growth is attributable to higher-than-forecasted new subscriber growth. Netflix added 4 million new subscribers in the first quarter, above the projected 3.85 million.
The Travelers Companies, Inc. (NYSE:TRV) posted first quarter 2014 earnings per share of $2.95, beating the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $2.13 per share by 38%. Moreover, earnings improved 28% year over year.
United Technologies Corp. (NYSE:UTX) reported earnings from continuing operations of $1.32 per share, more than the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $1.27 per share. However, first quarter 2014 earnings were less than year-ago quarter earnings of $1.39 per share due to restructuring costs. After the closing bell, AT&T, Inc. (NYSE:T) reported first quarter earnings that were in line with the Zacks Consensus Estimate.
Shares of Comcast, Harley-Davidson, Netflix, Travelers Companies and United Technologies increased 1.9%, 6.4%, 7.0%, 0.6% and 0.8%, respectively.
News on the mergers and acquisition front also boosted investor sentiment. Allergan Inc.’s (NYSE:AGN) shares surged 15.3% after Canadian drug maker Valeant Pharmaceuticals International, Inc. (NYSE:VRX) along with activist investor Bill Ackman announced an acquisition bid. Valeant offered a merger for $48.30 in cash and 0.83 shares of Valeant for each share of Allergan. Shares of Valeant rose 7.5%.
Meanwhile, another healthcare sector deal, between Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis AG (NYSE:NVS) and Britain’s GlaxoSmithKline plc (NYSE:GSK) was another highlight of the day. Novartis has agreed to sell its vaccines unit to Glaxo for $5.25 billion. This will make Glaxo the world leader for vaccines in terms market share. At the same time, Glaxo agreed to sell its portfolio of marketed cancer drugs to Novartis for $16 billion. Shares of Novartis and Glaxo rose 1.3% and 4.1%, respectively.
Separately, Eli Lilly and Company (NYSE:LLY) also announced its intention to acquire Novartis’ animal health division for $5.4 billion in an all-cash transaction.
The Health Care Select Sector SPDR (XL.V) led the gains among the S&P 500 sectors. The sector rose 1.1%. Key stocks from the sector such as Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ), Pfizer Inc. (NYSE:PFE), Merck & Co. Inc. (NYSE:MRK), Gilead Sciences Inc. (NASDAQ:GILD) and Bristol-Myers Squibb Company (NYSE:BMY) increased 0.2%, 0.5%, 0.9%, 1.8% and 0.9%, respectively. Overall, 8 out of 10 sectors of the S&P 500 ended in the green.
On the economic front, existing home sales data released by National Association of Realtors decreased to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.59 million units in March from 4.60 million units in February. However, the decrease was less than the consensus estimate of a decrease of 4.57 million units.
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