The stock market closed the week on a positive note on Friday, as major market benchmarks climbed between 0.25% and 0.5% on the day. Many market participants focused on the inauguration festivities in Washington, but the fact that today was an options expiration day added to volume on what would otherwise have likely been a fairly quiet trading day. Now, investors will look forward to seeing what the new administration seeks to accomplish and how it goes about doing that, and its decisions will likely have a significant impact on market movements in the future.
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For now, individual stocks got more attention than the market as a whole, and Cemex (NYSE: CX), CF Industries (NYSE: CF), and Noble Corp. (NYSE: NE) were among the best performers. Below, we'll look more closely at these stocks to tell you why they did so well.
Image source: Cemex.
Cemex looks ahead to the reality of the Trump administration
Cemex climbed 7%, coming within spitting distance of where the Mexican cement manufacturer's stock closed immediately before the U.S. presidential election. Sentiment toward Cemex has been negative ever since President Trump got elected, mostly because of his campaign positions regarding likely trade policies against the U.S.'s southern neighbor.
Yet Cemex does a sizable amount of business within the U.S., and policies to bolster construction and infrastructure spending could well have a positive impact on its fundamental prospects even if relations between Mexico and the U.S. sour. After losing as much as 20% of its value in the days after the election, Cemex now appears poised for further gains if things go as well as the company hopes.
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CF gets an upgrade
CF Industries rose 6% after getting an upgrade from analysts at B of A Merrill Lynch. The analyst company boosted its rating on the fertilizer manufacturer from neutral to buy, setting a $40 per-share price target on the stock and saying that reductions in earnings expectations have likely hit their low point.
Signs of strengthening in the fertilizer industry are finally appearing after a long run of bad news, and even if CF only gets partway back to the earnings that it enjoyed at its peak, current valuations of the stock look attractive. It could take time for CF's business to recover fully, but Merrill thinks that the time is right to make that call right now.
Noble earns a nice win
Finally, Noble Corp. climbed 5%. The offshore drilling company got good news in the form of a contract extension from Saudi Aramco for a couple of its jack-up rigs, extending the period by five years. Initially set to expire in July, the new deal gives Noble certainty in its revenue from the rigs until 2022, although Noble had to accept about a 5% price reduction in its dayrate.
Still, Noble will get $159,000 per day for each rig, and analysts at B of A Merrill Lynch upgraded their rating on the stock from underperform to neutral on hopes that the extensions are a sign of improving conditions in the offshore drilling market overall. If oil prices keep rising, then demand for Noble's equipment will likely follow suit and carry the stock even higher.
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