Earnings Fuel the Dow's Surge

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Markets were up across the board this afternoon as corporate earnings continue to fuel a broader resurgence. Initial claims came in flat, slightly worse than expected, but a jump in home sales and Ben Bernanke's comments reassuring investors that the Federal Reserve would act to halt any backsliding from the broader economy allayed fears.

With that in mind, let's take a closer look at how the major indexes fared and drill down on a few stocks driving today's action.

Index

Gain / Loss

Gain / Loss %

Ending Value

Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI) 121.280.93%13,212.00
Nasdaq24.160.80%3,053.79
S&P 5009.890.71%1,400.58

Source: Yahoo! Finance.


The Dow is showing its third straight day of over half a percent gains and is leading the other two indexes. But only one Dow component released earnings today, and its poor quarterly showing led to a 1% drop. That was enough to make ExxonMobil (NYS: XOM) the worst of the Dow's only four decliners on the day. The company's $2.00 in Q1 earnings per share missed estimates by 5%, as international struggles contributed to production declines of 5%. All is not well in North America, either, as the abundance of cheap natural gas weighs on Exxon, our country's largest producer. It looks to be a challenging year for the king of Big Oil.

We had some interesting boardroom drama today at Chesapeake Energy (NYS: CHK) and AstraZeneca (NYS: AZN) . The departure of CEO David Brennan at AstraZeneca was surprising, but not underserving. The company has a steep patent cliff and an incredibly thin pipeline, and the signature move of Brennan's tenure was the terrible acquisition of MedImmune. Today's sell-off is as much about a 44% drop in net income as it is the market waking up to AstraZeneca's poor condition. However, I can't see anything but good coming out of a change in leadership.

Meanwhile, Chesapeake is going to take a second look at the program that allows CEO Aubrey McClendon to take a stake in the company's wells. It was designed to align interests, but investors became alarmed when it was discovered McClendon personally borrowed roughly $1 billion based on those assets. Nothing may come of it, but it at least shows the board isn't tone-deaf to broader concerns.

Finally, small-cap biotech Amarin (NYS: AMRN) had a great day, closing up more than 17% higher as a potential competitor's drug showed itself to be less effective than Amarin's in a clinical trial. Amarin is expecting FDA approval for its refined fish oil drug AMR101, and if that happens, it will compete head to head with GlaxoSmithKline's Lovaza in a multibillion-dollar market. Glaxo has the bigger marketing budget, but Amarin appears to have the superior product, so investors should stay tuned to see who wins this David-vs.-Goliath battle.

Get ready for more earnings-season surprises
More earnings are on their way, so make sure you know what's happening. The Motley Fool's latest special report tells you what you need to know about five stocks you must watch this earnings season. Please accept my invitation to read the report for free -- but be sure to act now, before these companies report.

At the time this article was published David Williamsonowns shares of Amarin, but he holds no other position in any company mentioned. Check out hisholdings and a short bio.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended buying shares of Chesapeake Energy, ExxonMobil, and GlaxoSmithKline. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days.

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