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The stock market is down today because recession fears are returning to focus. Treasuries rose again on Tuesday as rate hike decisions shook investors. There were 9.9 million job openings in February 2023. This was the lowest level since May 2021 and below estimates of 10.4 million. The idea is that the labor market might be weakening, which is likely something the Federal Reserve is watching closely. Factory orders data also declined by more than expected.

Economic data can sway daily trends, whether you’re trading penny stocks or higher-priced company shares. In this case, the potentially weaker jobs market & orders data has brought concerns to the stock market today should this come in connection with another interest rate hike.

There’s no Fed meeting in April, which opens the door for more speculation and Fed speakers to sway sentiment. The official minutes from the March Fed meeting are also coming mid-week next week. They are likely to be studied closely for any verbiage related to pausing hikes or, on the other hand, considering additional hikes.

Notwithstanding these economic events, you’ve also got the latest interest in how the economy will handle oil production cuts. Earlier this week, OPEC+ announced it would slash output by 1.16 million barrels of oil per day. This helped keep oil prices above $80 on Tuesday and maintained the gap up that crude saw to begin the month of April.

Regardless of why the stock market is down today, plenty of penny stocks have climbed significantly higher in the face of this bearishness. The biggest question is whether the relative strength will be enough to keep the momentum throughout the week.

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VirnetX (VHC)

If you want to see what volatility looks like, look at VirnetX the last week. Shares popped to highs of $2.68, dropped to lows of $1.28, and are currently traded at around $1.50. One of the initial catalysts that sent the penny stock higher was news of a special dividend of $1 per share for shareholders of record on April 10th.

Kendall Larsen, Chairman and CEO of VirnetX, explained, “With increased clarity into the capital required to commercialize our technology, the Board is pleased to declare a $1.00 per share special dividend. This special dividend reflects our ongoing commitment to enhancing shareholder value. We are confident that we are close to a final outcome in our litigation with Apple, and the Board has committed to distribute to our shareholders a substantial portion of the net proceeds after the case concludes.”

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Unfortunately, this statement was spoken too soon as Apple won the appeal to uphold the US Patent Office’s decision against VirnetX patent claims. But with a reaffirmation of the special dividend, the market seems to have turned around at the start of this week.

Agora, Inc. (API)

The last month has been much stronger for Agora Inc. as shares have risen more than 30%. An initial move began after reporting Q4 and full-year 2022 earnings. Agora worked to streamline its operations and simplify its original structure for more customer-centric and focused local market dynamics.

“In 2023, we will be laser-focused on creating customer value, enhancing the competitiveness of our core products, and expanding our market share globally,” said CEO Tony Zhao in a late-February business update.

The company beat sales estimates and reported a Q4 Adjusted earnings loss per ADS of 14 cents, in line with estimates. Thanks to its real-time engagement platform growth, Agora also added 400 new customers last year. Following the API stock earnings, some analysts began weighing in on the company. Nomura, a firm with a Neutral rating, boosted its $3.80 target to $4.10.

There is also an “AI stocks” angle to Agora. If you’ve noticed trends like “Chat GPT stocks” and the move in companies with exposure to artificial intelligence technology, prices have surged in recent sessions. Agora found itself in this niche after it launched AI Noise Suppression.

This is its audio solution that removes background noise like typing, pets, kids, etc., to leave only voice. Generally applied to hybrid and home-office employees, the solution addresses a growing need for intelligent technology to step in and quiet things down. With “AI-anything” gaining attention recently, it may be something traders are looking at in the stock market today.

WW International (WW)

A leadership shakeup and M&A activity have been the source of speculative action in WW International over the last few weeks. The company agreed to buy Sequence for $106 million. The subscription-based telehealth platform offers access to healthcare providers in chronic weight management. The deal is expected to close this quarter.

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Rémi Cossart, CEO and Co-Founder of Sequence, commented in a March update, “WeightWatchers is the most studied and trusted behavior change program, and their customer-centric approach to livable, sustainable, science-backed weight management is unparalleled. I am thrilled to be joining the WeightWatchers team following the acquisition to scale Sequence’s clinical weight management offering, in combination with WeightWatchers’ best-in-class behavior change program, to deliver a one-of-a-kind scientifically sound solution to comprehensive care.”

Late last month, a management shakeup led to WW stock giving up nearly all its gains from that initial catalyst. The company’s Chairman announced plans to step down. In connection with the shift, the company also appointed a new chairman, effective May 9th. Now that the dust has settled, the market appears to have recovered a bit. Analysts also seem optimistic, with the latest rating from DA Davidson being a reiterated Buy on WW stock and a $9 target, nearly double the current price.

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