Stocks ended mixed on Wednesday, but two small biotech companies soared in value. There was little in the way of fresh market-moving news about China's economy or the Russian incursion into Ukraine Wednesday, but those issues continued to hang over the market. The Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) fell 11 points, but the Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GPSC) edged higher and the Nasdaq composite (^IXIC) gained 16 points, snapping its four session losing streak.
Shares of Oxigene (OXGN) soared 77 percent after the biotech firm said a mid-stage study of its drug to treat ovarian cancer showed increased survival rates when used in combination with another existing drug. And Chimerix (CMRX) rose 18 percent. It received FDA approval to bypass more testing and provide an experimental kidney cancer treatment to Josh Hardy, a 7-year-old boy who's received a lot of attention recently in his battle against the disease. Over the past three months, Chimerix shares have soared nearly 70 percent.
But another biotech, Geron (GERN), had a big setback. It lost 61 percent after the FDA ordered it to halt trials of a myeloma treatment because of the possibility the drug was causing liver abnormalities. And the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer (PFE) lost more than 1 percent as its patent on the painkiller Celebrex was invalidated. The company plans to appeal.
Also on the retail front, Express (EXPR) slid 12 percent after reporting weak sales and warning that this year has gotten off to an "extremely difficult" start. But Bon-Ton (BONT) gained 7 percent despite a big drop in sales. Its CEO says he'll step down early next year.
Elsewhere, Freddie Mac (FMCC) tumbled 17 percent and Fannie Mae (FNMA) slid 13 percent on word of a Senate plan to phase out the two federally sponsored mortgage companies.
And Herbalife (HLF) fell more than 7 percent in very heavy trading. The FTC has launched an investigation into the business practices of the multilevel marketing company.
What to Watch Thursday:
- At 8:30 a.m., the Labor Department releases weekly jobless claims, and import and export prices for February; the Commerce Department reports February retail sales.
- At 10 a.m., the Commerce Department reports business inventories for January, and Freddie Mac releases weekly mortgage rates.
- The Treasury Department releases its budget for February at 2 p.m.
- Aeropostale (ARO)
- Dollar General (DG)
- SeaWorld Entertainment (SEAS)
- Ulta Salon Cosmetics & Fragrance (ULTA)
- Zumiez (ZUMZ)