Stock Report For Week Ended July 25, 2014
Stocks mixed as investors weigh conflicting signals
The major benchmarks ended mixed for the week as investors weighed conflicting signals about the economy and corporate earnings. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index touched a new high on Thursday before falling back to end the week, while the price-weighted Dow Jones Industrial Average fared worst due to poor performance of several components. The technology-laden Nasdaq Composite performed best, helped by a rebound in biotechnology shares. Small-cap stocks lagged mid- and large-caps.
Earnings appear to have grown faster than expected in Q2
After a mild stumble on Monday, stocks managed to advance through most of the week, helped by a generally positive tone to the week's many second-quarter earnings reports. Analytical firm FactSet reported that, by Friday, overall earnings for companies in the S&P 500 that had reported so far this quarter had increased by 6.7%, well above the 4.9% growth expected before the reporting season began. Moreover, over three-quarters of the companies that had reported in the second quarter to date had surpassed analysts' earnings estimates.
Biotech sector surges on trial results
Major companies in several industries managed to top expectations during the week, but the biotechnology sector got a particular boost on Wednesday morning. Biotech stocks had suffered a severe sell-off in March and April and, while they had recovered much of their losses since, appeared headed for another downturn in early July. Part of the selling pressure may have been due to comments from Federal Reserve officials, who remarked that valuations appeared "stretched" for smaller biotech firms.
Financial results for biotech firms can swing wildly based on clinical results, drug approvals, and other factors, however. This was illustrated during the week by Puma Technologies, which rose 300% at one point on Wednesday following news that its breast cancer drug had shown promise in clinical trials. Regarding cancer treatments more generally, T. Rowe Price Health Sciences Fund Manager Taymour Tamaddon believes that we will uncover highly effective therapies in the next decade. He is particularly excited about new drugs that enable the immune system to play a larger role in cancer therapy.
Disappointments weigh on stocks to end the week
Investors proved less enthusiastic about some major earnings reports following the close of trading on Thursday, however, which helped spark a sharp market decline on Friday. Most notably, Amazon reported a strong increase in revenue but larger-than-anticipated expenses, and the heavily weighted company drove many of the indexes lower.
Housing sector held back by low pace of household formation
Economic data also proved less encouraging as the week progressed. This pattern was particularly true in housing data, as initial enthusiasm over a solid rise in existing home sales, reported Tuesday, was offset by news on Thursday that sales of new homes had fallen sharply in June. T. Rowe Price Chief Economist Alan Levenson notes that new construction has been limited by the disappointing pace of household formation relative to job growth.