Why Knight Transportation, Geron, and Rent-A-Center Jumped Today

By Dan Caplinger Markets Fool.com

Monday started the week on a positive note for the stock market, which climbed to modest gains as investors looked forward to learning more from corporate America as earnings season ramps up. The weekend failed to deliver any negative surprises on the geopolitical front, and even news that the Trump administration might make major modifications to its domestic agenda wasn't enough to stand in the way of the bull market's upward momentum.

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In addition, several stocks had significant advances to lead the market higher, and Knight Transportation (NYSE: KNX), Geron (NASDAQ: GERN), and Rent-A-Center (NASDAQ: RCII) were among the best performers on the day. Below, we'll look more closely at these stocks to tell you why they did so well.

Knight makes a deal

Shares of Knight Transportation climbed 14% after the trucking company announced a deal with rival Swift Transportation to join forces. Under the terms of the agreement, Knight shareholders will get one share of the new company for every Knight share they own, while Swift shareholders will receive 0.72 shares of the newly combined company for every Swift share they own. In the aggregate, Knight will make up slightly less than half of the combined company, which will have an enterprise value of about $6 billion. Knight CEO Dave Jackson noted that "we look forward to learning from each other's best practices as we seek to be the most efficient company in the industry." Shareholders of both companies were pleased with the deal, and the two trucking giants hope to complete the merger in the third quarter of 2017.

Image source: Knight Transportation.

Geron enjoys drug success

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Geron stock climbed 20% in the wake of positive news from clinical trials of the company's imetelstat treatment for myelofibrosis and myelodysplastic syndromes. The biopharma said that an internal review of the IMerge phase 2/3 clinical trial revealed a consistent safety profile from previous trials and an encouraging benefit/risk profile for imetelstat in treating myelodysplastic syndrome. Geron is hopeful that the data will encourage partner Janssen to continue the trial. At the same time, the IMbark phase 2 trial confirmed the company's starting dose for myelofibrosis patients, and although spleen volume response rates were less than in trials with other drugs, imetelstat showed potential clinical benefit in multiple outcomes. Investors hope that the results show that imetelstat will eventually pan out as a potential groundbreaker in the treatment of these ailments.

Rent-A-Center has a plan

Finally, shares of Rent-A-Center rose 7%. The rent-to-own specialist said that it had a new strategic plan to boost growth prospects, including the return of founder Mark Speese as CEO and a new emphasis on its core U.S. business, where it hopes to implement pricing and early payout options that encourage ownership among customers more quickly. With a better product mix, a more sales-savvy workforce, and improved management of customer accounts, Rent-A-Center hopes to make more from its core business. The company also expects to broaden the appeal of its AcceptanceNOW retail program, which allows customers to obtain goods sold by third-party retail partners and have Rent-A-Center create a rent-to-own option for the product. Rent-A-Center has a long way to go to return to its former heights, but investors think that today's move could be a step in the right direction.

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Dan Caplinger has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.