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Wednesday
May152013

Will Angelina Jolie Announcement Boost Biotech Stocks?

Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/WireImage(LOS ANGELES) -- While Angelina Jolie’s announcement on Tuesday that she had a double mastectomy after learning she carried a genetic predisposition for breast cancer raised awareness about genetic testing, analysts are skeptical that it will boost the stock prices in the biotech industry.

“Obviously getting popular press is great, but I don’t think that’s the major driver,” said Amanda Murphy, healthcare analyst with William Blair & Company.

Shares of Myriad Genetics Inc., a company that works in human genomics based in Salt Lake City, Utah,  rose to three-year highs on Tuesday, which some media reports attributed to the actress’ announcement and a Supreme Court decision on Monday siding with agricultural biotech firm Monsanto against a farmer in a seed patent dispute.

Myriad Genetics developed an expensive test called BRACAnalysis that looks for the genetic mutation that Jolie referred to in her New York Times op-ed.

According to the BracAnalysis website, testing for cancer risk is covered by most insurance companies. Other reports indicate the test can cost from $300 to $3,000 depending on the type.

On April 15, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments from Myriad Genetics’ attorneys who said the company should keep its patent on two genes, BRCA1 or BRCA2. Women with mutations in those genes are five times more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Murphy said Myriad’s own Supreme Court case affects multiple industries.

“To the extent that you’re a company invested in or patented to protect your offering, that concept is a good thing for everybody,” she said.

While Murphy said she believes the Supreme Court’s discussion about Monsanto -- related to protecting research investments and patents -- is relevant to the idea that genes can be patented. But Myriad’s healthy earnings report a week ago and the bullish market are also boosting Myriad’s stock price, she said. The company’s stock price was trading around $33.78 mid-day on Wednesday, down about 1 percent.

Doug Schenkel, analyst with Cowen and Co., said the awareness that Jolie raised in her detailed announcement is good news for Myriad.

“Even in eligible cancer patients who meet guidelines the market penetration is about half of what it could be and in asymptomatic patients who have higher hereditary risk a fraction of patients who meet the criteria for BRACAnalysis are tested,” he wrote in an email to ABC News. “Her action has to broaden awareness of genetic screening benefits for this test as well as others.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Mar072013

Dow Marks Third Straight Record Close

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Thursday marked the third consecutive record close for the Dow Jones Industrial Average. The blue-chip index climbed 33.25 points to another all-time high of 14,329 at the session's close.

The Nasdaq added 9.72 points, or 0.3 percent, to close at 3,232.09. The S&P 500 gained 2.80 points, or 0.2 percent, and closed at 1,544.26.
 
Fewer Americans are filing for unemployment benefits, according to the U.S. Labor Department. The number of first time claims dropped by 7,000 last week.  The less volatile four-week average hit its lowest number since March of 2008, just a few months into the recession. Millions of Americans are still struggling to get back to work, however, and the unemployment rate -- which doesn't count those who have given up looking -- remains 7.9 percent.
 
The February numbers come out on Friday.
 
Americans' net worth is returning to pre-recession levels, thanks to surging stocks and rebuilding home prices.  The Federal Reserve says household wealth amounted to $66.1 trillion at the end of 2012.  That was 98 percent of the pre-recession peak.
 
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Mar062013

Another Record Close for Dow Jones Industrial Average

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The Dow Jones Industrial Average saw another historic close Wednesday, despite losing some steam.
 
The blue chips index still called it a session with an all-time high, up 42 points, or 0.3 percent, at 14,296.  The Nasdaq lost 1.77 points, or 0.1 percent, to close at 3,222.36. The S&P 500 picked up 1.67 points, or 0.1 percent, closing at 1,541.46.
 
It's still hard to find a job, but a new survey finds more places are hiring. Payroll processor ADP says businesses added 198,000 jobs last month.
 
A Federal Reserve survey shows the economy expanded in all parts of the country in the first two months of the year.  Ten of the Fed's 12 regions showed moderate growth, with slow growth only in the Boston and Chicago districts.  The housing market was stronger almost nationwide, and consumer spending was up, especially with auto sales.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Mar062013

Dow Jones Industrial Average Closes at All-Time High

Jin Lee/Bloomberg via Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The Dow Jones industrial average reached record highs on Tuesday, surpassing a key level in its recovery from the 2008 financial meltdown.

After first hitting a record opening Tuesday morning, the Dow maintained its highs, closing up 125.95 points, reaching 14,253.77 at the end of New York trading at 4 p.m. ET, topping the previous record close of 14,164 achieved on Oct. 9, 2007.

Since the last record, the housing market collapsed, the economy has stumbled through years of slow growth and high unemployment, and the country has experienced the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. The national debt has also skyrocketed during that time, from $9.4 trillion to $16.6 trillion.

"I think there is a lesson in there for investors: don't panic, stay the course, focus on intrinsic value and try to ignore the whims of Mr. Market," said Matthew Coffina, editor of Morningstar StockInvestor. "Over the long run, the U.S. stock market is still one of the greatest wealth creators."

Still, Coffina warned investors Tuesday to exercise caution.

"The market overall looks about fairly-valued, so there is relatively little margin of safety. It's a good time to focus on quality companies trading at reasonable valuations."

Some of his "current favorites" are C.H. Robinson Worldwide, Inc., a freight and logistics company that closed up 0.84 percent at $57.54; and Compass Minerals, a minerals producer that closed up 2.55 percent at $76.14 a share.

An index of 30 of the largest U.S. companies, the Dow is a widely-watched indicator of the "blue-chip" companies trading in the stock market. It has more than doubled from its low reached in 2009 after the government bailed out the major banks, which were crushed under the weight of bad mortgages fueled by easy-lending policies.

Stocks have been in a five-year bull market, helped by the Federal Reserve, which has kept interest rates near zero to assist in the recovery of the housing market.

Scott Brown, chief economist with Raymond James, said there is "nothing magical" about the Dow Jones industrial average reaching a record.

"The broader market has already been strong. However, the media attention may help to support consumer confidence. The stock market is a leading economic indicator," he said.

Wealth effects should add to consumer spending, although the stock market wealth is concentrated at the upper end of the income scale. By contrast, the payroll tax increase and higher gasoline prices have not had a strong impact, he said.

"We may see a tale of two economies in the near term. The middle class is squeezed by the payroll tax hike and the increase in gasoline prices. However, the housing market is improving and replacement needs will continue to drive vehicle sales," Brown said. "Business investment is supported by continued growth in corporate profits and an inventory rebuild may help support GDP growth in 1Q12. Government austerity and a soft global economy aren't going to help. In short, a mixed bag."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Feb272013

Dow Inching Closer to All-Time High

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The Dow closed up 175.24 points Monday, bringing the index within 89 points, or less than one percent, from its all-time high set in October 2007. This is the closest the Dow has been to that high in more than five years.
 
Monday's close was also the Dow’s highest so far this year, at 14,075.37.
 
A set of decent economic news in the U.S. and Europe boosted markets. The Nasdaq Composite added 32.61 to close at 3,162.26.  The S&P finished the session at 1,515.99, adding 19.05 points.
 
The number of Americans who signed contracts to buy homes rose to the highest level since April 2010.  The increase points to more home sales in the coming months.
 
Orders for factory goods grew by the most in more than a year, suggesting companies are willing to invest some of their cash.
 
An Italian bond auction went better than expected, despite the political chaos there.
 
Finally, Ben Bernanke, in a second day of congressional testimony, reassured investors that the Fed will not abruptly end its stimulus.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Feb262013

US Markets Recover from Big Losses

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A jump in home sales and a boost in consumer confidence gave the markets a lift Tuesday.

The Dow closed up 116 points, or 0.8 percent, at 13,900.13. On Monday, the index lost 216 points, its biggest drop of the year so far. The Nasdaq added 13 points to finish at 3,129.65.  The S&P gained nine points, closing at 1,496.94.

Strong U.S. sales and increased business after superstorm Sandy helped Home Depot build a strong fourth-quarter earnings report that climbed 32 percent. The home improvement chain's stock led the Dow, gaining 5.7 percent Tuesday.

Bargain-priced homes are getting harder to find.  The latest Standard and Poors/Case-Shiller index finds prices in 20 cities are up an average of 6.8 percent.

Meanwhile, we're feeling better about the economy.  The Conference Board's latest Consumer Confidence Index stands at 69.6, up from 58.4 in January.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Monday
Feb252013

Gridlock in Italy Sends Stocks Tumbling

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- U.S stock markets tumbled as Italians voted for what appears to be political gridlock.  Italy is a key member of the eurozone and political impasse there could reignite the European economic crisis.
 
As results of the Italian election began trickling out, the Dow turned negative, ending the day down 216 points, or 1.6 percent, at 13,784.17.  This is the Dow’s biggest drop so far this year.

The S&P closed at 1,487.85, down 28 points. The Nasdaq Composite was down 46 points at 3,116.25.
 
Italy is working its way through a deep recession and painful austerity measures.  In Monday’s elections Italians seemed to reject austerity, without giving any one party enough votes to form a government.
 
There are automatic budget cuts coming at the end of the week here in the U.S., which could add to the negative impact on markets in coming days.
 
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Friday
Feb222013

Stocks End the Week Higher

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Stocks reversed a two-day decline Friday, thanks to stronger earnings reports.
 
The Dow closed up 120 points to end the week at 14,000.57. The Nasdaq Composite added 30 points, closing at 3,161.82. The S&P earned 13 points to finish at 1,515.60.
 
Home prices rose in January for the 15th month in a row. Real estate website Zillow says it was the largest year-over-year increase since 2006. Investors are snapping up lower priced properties and turning them into rentals.
 
Meanwhile, Boeing has given Congress a long-term proposal to fix the 787 Dreamliner's troubled batteries. It would require some testing and safety recertification of the lithium ion batteries, but wouldn't have the planes back in the air until at least April.
 
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Feb212013

US Stock Indices Decline Again

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Stocks slid again Thursday, despite an encouraging report on home sales, which rose from December to January.
 
The Dow closed down 47 points, or 0.3 percent, at 13,880.62. The Nadsaq gave up 33 points, or one percent, to close at 3,131.49. The S&P 500 lost 10 points, or 0.6 percent, and closed at 1,502.42.
 
Oil prices also declined for a second day, raising hopes it'll slow the spike in gas prices.  U.S. benchmark crude fell more than $2.00 to just under $93 a barrel.
 
Meanwhile, low prices mean big business for Walmart. The discount chain's fourth-quarter earnings rose almost eight percent, exceeding analysts' expectations.
 
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Feb202013

Stocks Close Down After Fed Stimulus Debate

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The Federal Reserve is considering tempering its efforts to stimulate the economy, according to minutes of their meeting released Wednesday afternoon.

The Dow Jones Industrials had been trading down for much of the day but took a dive late in the afternoon after the Fed's release.  The index ended the day down 108 points at the close of New York trading, finishing at 13,927.54.

The Nasdaq Composite closed down 49.18 points at 3,164.41. The S&P 500 gave up 18.99 points to close at 1,511.65.

Fed members discussed whether to curb the stimulus, but made no decisions, according to Wednesday's meeting minutes. The Fed has said previously that it would not change course until there’s substantial improvement in unemployment.

The Fed’s moves have been supporting the stock and housing markets, while pushing down interest rates — allowing consumers to borrow cheaply.  Many Federal Reserve officials are concerned about the costs and risks of expanding its balance sheet, or what is referred to as printing money.

Concerns about what happens to the economy when the Federal Reserve winds down its stimulative efforts are not new, but many economists were surprised by the plain statements in Wednesday’s minutes.

Naysayers of Federal Reserve policy have long argued that the Fed’s measures have been artificially boosting the economy, leading to stronger closing bells.  More optimistic observers argue that the economy is recovering and may soon be able to thrive without the central bank’s support.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio







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