Tepid auto sales and concerns over international headlines weighed on U.S. markets today, as the major indices pulled back from their recent record highs to finish lower.
Several automakers missed on earnings estimates for February auto sales, sending most of them lower. Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F), Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV (NYSE:FCAU) and Nissan Motor Co Ltd (ADR) (OTCMKTS:NSANY) were all down, and only General Motors Company (NYSE:GM) was slightly higher. Bad weather was blamed for the sluggish sales.
Also weighing on stocks were the remarks before Congress of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel about the growing threat of a nuclear-enriched Iran. That had traders on edge throughout the day.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished off by 0.5%, the S&P 500 fell 0.4% and the Nasdaq Composite slid nearly 0.6%. It was also a bad day for almost all sectors of the market, as only utilities were in the green today.
However, there were still plenty of stocks that shot higher amid good news. For example, Lumber Liquidators Holdings Inc (NYSE:LL), Orexigen Therapeutics, Inc. (NASDAQ:OREX) and Springleaf Holdings Inc (NYSE:LEAF) all had good days and were three of today’s best stocks.
Lumber Liquidators Holdings Inc (LL)
Lumber Liquadators stock dropped 25% yesterday after it was named in a 60 Minutes television report for allegedly selling Chinese-made laminate flooring that contains excessive levels of cancer-causing formaldehyde. However, LL stock made somewhat of a comeback today, bouncing up 5% on 16.7 million shares.
Helping to boost LL stock today was an upgrade by Janney Capital, to “buy” from “neutral.” Janney said fears from the report are overblown and that 60 Minutes did not provide a complete picture of the issue.
Orexigen Therapeutics, Inc. (OREX)
OREX stock soared 32% on 93.7 million share after its weight-loss drug Contrave was found to have a 41% reduction in heart attacks and strokes among patients taking it versus a group taking a placebo. The patients in the trial study were overweight and had various illnesses such as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure.
The positive data also added seven more years to the patent for Contrave, which will now expire in 2034. The original thought behind the study was that the drug might cause more heart attacks, but not only was that proven wrong, but Contrave was found to possibly prevent them.
Springleaf Holdings Inc (LEAF)
LEAF stock blasted up 32% on much higher volume today after it agreed to buy Citigroup Inc.’s (NYSE:C) One Main Financial, Inc. division for $4.2 billion in cash. The purchase was said by analysts to create a subprime mortgage giant, that may service 2.5 million customers with 2000 bank branches across the country.
The deal should close by the third quarter of 2015. Shares of LEAF stock hit an all-time high today of $52.48 before pulling back to close just over $50. Surprisingly, C stock barely budged on the news, up less than half a percent.
As of this writing, Ethan Roberts does not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.
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