The day started out better than many had predicted. The U.S. non-farm payroll figures demonstrated a job gain of 171,000, much better than the 121,000 gain that was expected, and the U.S. unemployment rate ticked slightly higher to 7.9%. Job gains from the August and September report were also revised higher.
However, that all went for naught by midday, as weakness in energy and metal stocks, disappointing earnings forecasts, and a strong move higher in the dollar, all collaborated to push the broad-based S&P 500 (INDEX: ^GSPC) lower by 13.39 points (-0.94%), to end at 1,414.20.
Pitney Bowes, a leading supplier of mailing solutions equipment, announced a sizable reduction in its full-year EPS forecast, and multiple cost-cutting measures, including the closure of a service that delivers catalogs and mail internationally, in its third-quarter report. As logistics have become more digitized, and the U.S. Postal Service moves steadily toward irrelevance, Pitney Bowes has struggled to find new pathways for growth. Even following today's drop, I'm still concerned it could head even lower.
Solar panel maker First Solar's results weren't nearly on the same caliber of disappointment as Pitney Bowes, but a weaker sales forecast nonetheless came as a surprise to shareholders. For the quarter, First Solar reported a 55% decline in profits due to its ongoing restructuring. It did boost the low-end of its previous EPS guidance, but also noted that full-year revenue was likely to come in within the range of $3.5 billion to $3.8 billion versus previous guidance of $3.6 billion to $3.9 billion. First Solar blamed the lower revenue on supply chain disruptions due to Hurricane Sandy, and some projects simply not closing until the first quarter of next year.
The bright spot in today's sea of red was online travel review and booking sites like TripAdvisor (NAS: TRIP) and priceline.com (NAS: PCLN) , which advanced 19% and 8%, respectively, after reporting fantastic results.
TripAdvisor noted an 18% increase in revenue and a 9% pop in net income over the previous year, as advertising and subscription revenue boosted results. Specifically, TripAdvsior has been one of the pioneers in utilizing mobile ads to its advantage, and its strong results today are evidence of this fact.
Travel booking site priceline.com also soared, because of stronger hotel bookings -- even in Europe. As my Foolish colleague Brian Pacampara notes, priceline grew EPS by 27%, as bookings jumped 25% for the recently-ended quarter. The company's guidance for the upcoming quarter was also in line to be slightly ahead of Wall Street's expectations. As long as cost-conscious consumers look online for better travel deals, priceline and TripAdvisor are likely to keep cleaning up come earnings time.
Lights out, First Solar?
The article This Is the Reason the S&P 500 Hit a Wall by Midday originally appeared on Fool.com.
Fool contributor Sean Williams has no material interest in any companies mentioned in this article. You can follow him on CAPS under the screen name TMFUltraLong, track every pick he makes under the screen name TrackUltraLong, and check him out on Twitter, where he goes by the handle @TMFUltraLong.The Motley Fool owns shares of TripAdvisor. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of TripAdvisor and priceline.com. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.