Strong earnings and optimism about the improving economy carried the Dow Jones Industrial Average higher once again today. The blue chips gained 72 points, or 0.5%, to finish at 13,954, knocking on the door of 14,000 and just a few percentage points away from all-time highs. Today's gains came in spite of lower consumer confidence levels, as the expiration of the payroll tax holiday apparently left shoppers feeling blue. The Conference Board's index dropped all the way to 58.6, well below the 65.1 economists had projected and December's 66.7. The November Case-Shiller 20-City index, meanwhile, grew by 5.5%, slightly ahead of estimates.
Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer paced the Dow's gains today, rising 3.2% after reporting earnings this morning. Profits and sales both cruised past estimates, as the company brought in $0.47 a share after adjustments on estimates of $0.44. Revenue, meanwhile, hit $15.1 billion, well ahead of the Street's view of $14.4 billion, but still down 7% from a year ago due to Lipitor coming off patent. Factoring in a gain from selling its nutritional products business to Nestle, Pfizer made $0.86 per share in the quarter. Improving sales in emerging markets also gave it a bump. The Viagra-maker's 2013 earnings forecast was a little light at $2.20 to $2.30 per share against the $2.29 consensus, but the market seems excited about its pipeline, which includes a blood clot preventer that could hit $5 billion a year in annual sales.
After hours, Amazon.com was among stocks making headlines, jumping 9% after reporting earnings. Oddly enough, the online retail giant missed on all three key categories -- earnings, revenue, and guidance -- but the market still found a reason to applaud. CEO Jeff Bezos touted the company's e-book segment growth of 70% over the year before, and the company's gross margin rose from 20.1% to 24.7%, indicating that some of its investments may be paying off. Still, revenue increased by just 22%, the slowest rate it's seen since the recession in 2009. The retail giant guided toward a slight loss in Q1 2013.
Finally, Chesapeake Energy shares were racing ahead after hours as well, gaining 9% after announcing that embattled CEO and Founder Aubrey McClendon will be leaving the company in April. McClendon had come under fire last spring for mixing his own dealings with Chesapeake's and was stripped of his chairmanship as a result. The incidents, which included McClendon taking a personal stake in the natural gas producer's wells, sparked the ire of shareholders as well as regulators, and the stock dropped by 50% in just two tumultuous months. Chesapeake said it found no evidence of a violation, but investors have been angling for his ouster for some time and are clearly cheering the move.
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