The major indexes slipped lower, and so did the price of crude oil and the value of the dollar. The Dow lost 2 points, the Nasdaq fell 12, and the S&P 500 declined by 5. For the week, the Nasdaq and the S&P 500 were fractionally higher; the Dow was fractionally lower. Fifteen of the Dow’s 30 components lost ground, led by American Express (AXP), which fell more than 1%. Volume was light, and declining issues outnumbered advancers by two to one on the NYSE and by five to two on the Nasdaq. The prices of Treasuries strengthened, while the price of gold futures declined by 0.7% to $1,709.80 an ounce. The price of crude oil on the New York Mercantile Exchange lost 1.9% to $106.70 a barrel.
In Earnings News:
- Big Lots announced earnings increased from $1.46 a share a year ago to $1.75 a share in the latest quarter. Revenue rose by 10%, and the company, which buys up overstocked products and sells them to consumers at discount prices, forecast that earnings would increase by 17% this year. The price of Big Lots stock (BIG) lost 4% in today’s session.
In Other Business News:
- Twenty-five European nations signed a treaty, known as the “fiscal compact,” designed to impose budgetary discipline on the signatories and lead ultimately to financial and political union. “It will bring us, as it were, the economic and monetary union that is finally walking on two legs,” said the European Council president. Great Britain and the Czech Republic were the only two European countries that opted not to sign the accord.
- After Yelp, the internet review website, priced its shares at $15.00 for an initial public offering, the stock (YELP) opened at $22.01 and then rose to a high of $26.00 before falling back to close at $24.58 a share for a gain of 63%.
- Kodak, which recently entered bankruptcy, took another step in its plan to slim down by agreeing to sell its online photo services unit to Shutterfly for $23.8 million. The price of Shutterfly’s stock (SFLY) gained 16% in today’s trading.
- Sara Lee announced it would spin off its coffee and tea business by issuing $4.55 billion in stock to existing Sara Lee shareholders. Once the spinoff is complete, Sara Lee will also declare a one-time dividend of $3 a share. The price of Sara Lee stock (SLE) gained 7% in today’s session.
Finally, from the annals of science, here are some recent developments, ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous.
- Scientists at Cambridge University in Britain announced recently that they have discovered the “Rapunzel number,” a key ratio needed to calculate the effect of gravity on human hair. Who cares? Well, Leonardo da Vinci, for one, pondered the difficulty of making hair look lifelike in his paintings 500 years ago. Now, using the Rapunzel number plugged into a formula that includes data on the thickness and waviness of hair, the computer graphics and animation industry can make hair look lifelike. “Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your golden formula?” (At long last: A “good hair day.”)
- Yahoo reported in its technology section today that Japanese scientists have invented a “gun” that will shut people up. Well, we already have too many of those, but this gun causes no bodily injury whatsoever. Instead of shooting lead or other projectiles, this gun simply plays back to the speaker the sounds that it hears delayed by 0.2 seconds. Apparently, we don’t confuse ourselves when we speak because our speaking and hearing are exactly coordinated. But when we hear a perfect echo of our speech slightly delayed, the speech center of our brain becomes wildly confused and we fall silent. Or so the scientists claim, and they see applications for their boxy device, which has a handle and a trigger, in libraries and schools. OK, and other folks will find applications for it no doubt at presidential campaign debates. Unfortunately, we can’t verify the accuracy of this report and I, for one, suspect it’s a candidate for ultimate debunking. Certainly my children would be skeptical that any device so harmless could instantly shut me up.
- A humanitarian (I think that’s the right term) named Richard Zimmerman has founded an organization called “Orangutan Outreach” devoted to supplying primates in zoos around the country with iPads so they can communicate with one another in the dreary and boring winter season when they can’t be outside. Apparently the orangutans recognize family and friends residing at other zoos when they see them on the iPad screen. Zimmerman also believes apes can learn to operate the iPad’s video chat technology, and his group is developing other kinds of educational applications. Call them “apps for apes.” Yipes. If the orangs get their hands on some of those guns that silence people, pretty soon we’ll be headed for you know what: Planet of the apps, er planet of the apes. Or whatever.
Have a great weekend. And, in case you haven’t noticed, IPOs are on the rise again. Yelp and two other companies went public on Friday, and Facebook is waiting in the wings. If the IPO phenomenon has you perplexed, listen to Dr. Brian Jacobsen lay out “The anatomy of an IPO” as my guest for On the Trading DeskSM.