The major indexes closed the third quarter in retreat. The Dow lost 240 points, the Nasdaq fell by 65, and the S&P 500 declined by 28. Twenty-nine of the Dow’s 30 components lost ground, led by Hewlett-Packard (HPQ), which lost 5%. The price of Morgan Stanley shares (MS) fell 10% on fears that the bank is heavily invested in European banks, and shares of Kodak (EK) lost 53% on rumors that the company may face restructuring in a bankruptcy proceeding. Volume was moderate and declining issues outnumbered advancers by about four to one. The prices of Treasuries strengthened, while the price of gold futures gained 0.3% to $1,622.30 an ounce. The price of crude oil on the New York Mercantile Exchange lost 3.5% to $79.20 a barrel.
For the week, the Dow gained 1.3%, the Nasdaq lost 2.7%, and the S&P 500 closed fractionally lower. Today was also the final day in a very volatile quarter of trading: For the third quarter, the Dow and the Nasdaq lost 12%, and the S&P 500 declined by 14%.
In Earnings News:
- Ingersoll-Rand revised downward its earnings estimate for the latest quarter from a range of up to 95 cents a share to a range of up to 80 cents a share. The industrial conglomerate blamed weak demand in North America for its residential heating and cooling systems. Wall Street was anticipating earnings of about 91 cents a share, and the price of Ingersoll stock (IR) fell 12% in today’s session.
In Other Business News:
- China’s manufacturing sector contracted in September for the third consecutive month, according to the HSBC purchasing managers index. The contraction suggests that China’s economy is beginning to slow down, although it could remain generally expansive for the year.
- Consumer spending increased by 0.2% in August, according to the Commerce Department, which also revised upward to 0.7% its calculation for the increase in spending in July. The gains would be moderately encouraging for the economy except that the Commerce Department also reported that incomes declined by 0.1% in August, the biggest decline in almost two years.
- Consumer inflation in Europe increased from 2.5% in August to 3% in September, according to Eurostat, the agency that keeps data for the eurozone. The European Central Bank’s target for consumer inflation is less than 2%, and today’s data may put pressure on it to raise interest rates in an effort to head off inflation.
- Manufacturing activity in the Chicago region picked up steam unexpectedly in September. The Institute for Supply Management, Chicago, reported that its manufacturing index rose from 56 in August to 60 in September.
- Consumer morale showed signs of improvement as September came to a close. According to the University of Michigan, the Consumer Sentiment Index rose from 55.7 at the end of August to 59.4 now. However, 59 is a low level of confidence, and a spokesman for the index explained: “Rather than spending more and taking on new debt, consumers are intent on rebalancing their finances to prepare for a new economic era.”
I suppose it was inevitable. We now have spas for dogs, hotels for dogs, babysitting for dogs, and a whole bunch of other things for dogs that use to exist only for people. So it was just a matter of time before advertisers would start talking straight to our dogs.
And so it begins: Nestle, the maker of Purina brand animal foods, announced today that it is launching the first-ever television commercial for mutts. In what is clearly a global conspiracy, Nestle’s European pet food division asked experts in the U.S. to determine sounds that would appeal to the canine psyche, and the sounds will be incorporated in ads that will run next week in Australia. The sounds, which are barely audible to human ears, include high pitched whistles, squeaks, and pings, which dogs can hear over the usual human-language appeal made to the dogs’ owners.
So unless I have a dog’s ears, it will work like this: A football game I’m watching breaks for ads at the two-minute warning and suddenly Purina is telling me how nutritious and delicious these little dry lumps are for my dog. Suddenly Spot awakes from a dead sleep, perks up his ears, stares intently at the screen, and starts howling mournfully. “Well, OK, Spot,” I say sympathetically. “If that’s what you want, of course I’ll run out to the store right now—even though there are only two minutes left in the game and my team is marching down the field for a game-winning field goal—and buy you a bag.”
Not LIKELY! I can’t imagine why Nestle thinks that appealing behind my back directly to my dog could possibly be effective except that it worked great with my kids. Oh well.
Headlines for this story:
- “Get ready for the TV advertisemutt”
- “So that’s why Madison Avenue pros call a TV ad ‘a television Spot’”
Have a great weekend. And if you wish you could see through the confusion of volatile times like these, listen to Tony Norris discuss “Avoiding the noise in international bond markets” as my guest for On the Trading DeskSM.