What Happened in the Stock Market Today

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Wall Street had a mixed day on Wednesday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI) and the S&P 500 (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC) posting fractional gains, but the NASDAQ Composite (NASDAQINDEX: ^IXIC) losing some ground in advance of a spate of earnings announcements from tech firms expected after the close.

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Today's stock market

Index Percentage Change Point Change
Dow  0.25% 57.77
S&P 500  0.16% 4.10
Nasdaq Composite  (0.17%) (11.14)

Energy was the strongest sector in the market, with oil and gas stocks continuing their recent run. The SPDR S&P Oil & Gas Exploration & Production ETF (NYSEMKT: XOP) closed up 2.9%

As for individual stocks, The Estee Lauder Companies (NYSE: EL) had a big gain after reporting earnings, and bluebird bio (NASDAQ: BLUE) rose on positive clinical trial results.

Estee Lauder puts a good face on its latest quarter

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Consumer stocks seem to be sorting themselves into winners and losers in 2017, and Wednesday's earnings report from cosmetics maker Estee Lauder certainly seemed to confirm the company belongs in the former category. Revenue in the first quarter of the company's fiscal 2018 was up 14% to $3.27 billion, while earnings per share soared 44% to $1.14. Analysts were expecting a 10% rise in sales and a 15% gain in EPS, and the beats sent the stock soaring 9.3%. The company also boosted its fiscal year sales guidance by a percentage point to a 7% to 8% range in constant currency, and increased full year adjusted EPS growth from a range of 9% to 11% to a range of 12% to 14%. 

International sales were particularly strong, with growth of 17% in the Asia Pacific, and 18% in the Europe, Middle East, and Africa region. Sales in the Americas grew a respectable 7%, thanks to expansions to its specialty and online channels, recent acquisitions, and even some improvement in sales through U.S. prestige department stores.

"We delivered an outstanding financial performance in our fiscal 2018 first quarter, demonstrating the power of our diverse brand portfolio to leverage our multiple engines of growth," said CEO Fabrizio Freda in the press release. "Building on the global momentum of the last fiscal year, we benefited from a continued acceleration in China, Hong Kong, travel retail and global online, strength in several developed and emerging markets in Europe, and incremental sales from Too Faced and BECCA."

bluebird bio flies high on encouraging trial data

Bluebird bio reported earnings this morning, but all the attention around this clinical-stage biotech was focused on reports of progress with its novel gene therapy treatments, and the initial report of good news in that area sent the stock up 16%. The stock closed up 2.8% on the day.

The company disclosed its abstracts for the upcoming meeting of the American Society of Hematology, and there was encouraging new data on its LentiGlobin treatment for severe sickle cell disease. Bluebird has modified its process for the gene therapy treatment, and early results from two patients treated using the refined process have demonstrated higher copy numbers -- a measure of the success of a gene therapy -- with no unexpected adverse events.

The abstracts also reveal that the company is making good progress in its clinical program for bb2121, the CAR-T treatment for multiple myeloma it's developing with partner Celgene. The overall response rate for all tested doses was 89% and increased to 100% with doses over a particular level. The company has also begun expanding the test to a second cohort of patients.

Bluebird one of several companies working on gene therapies that hold the promise of curing certain cancers or severe diseases with a single treatment, involving removing the patient's own cells, editing their genes, and implanting them back into the patient. Today's news provided a little more evidence that this approach could have a big payoff down the road.

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Jim Crumly owns shares of Bluebird Bio and Celgene. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Bluebird Bio and Celgene. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.