Stocks made modest gains on a holiday-shortened trading day, getting a lift from a better-than-expected report about U.S. factory orders in May that partly countered recent pessimism about the manufacturing sector.
The Dow gained 72 points, with 23 of its 30 components gaining ground; the S&P 500 rose 8; and the Nasdaq was higher by 24. Advancers led decliners by just under four to one on the NYSE and eight to three on the Nasdaq. The prices of Treasuries weakened. Gold futures rose $24.10 to close at $1,621.80 an ounce, and the price of crude oil jumped $3.80 to settle at $87.55 a barrel.
In Other Business News:
- U.S. factory orders rose in May, breaking a two-month string of declines, according to the Department of Commerce. Increased orders for autos and airplanes pushed factory orders 0.7% higher for the month, more than expected.
- The top three leaders of Barclays PLC announced their resignations today after the alleged LIBOR-fixing scandal that’s shaken the company. CEO Robert Diamond and COO Jerry Del Missier resigned today, while Chairman Marcus Agius announced he will resign once he’s found a replacement CEO. Barclays is alleged to have submitted artificially lower LIBOR rates in an effort to improve the perception of its financial position. Complicating matters, the bank today released notes of a call that claim to show the request to lower its LIBOR rates originally stemmed from a Bank of England official.
- Microsoft Corp. announced it will take a $6.2 billion writedown related to its 2007 acquisition of AQuantive Inc., an internet-advertising company that Microsoft hoped would help turn around its struggling online services division. AQuantive didn’t lead to the revenue growth for Microsoft’s online division that it had anticipated. The $6.2 billion writedown is higher than most analysts’ estimates for Microsoft’s second-quarter earnings, which could mean the company will report a loss for the quarter.
- June sales were strong at U.S. automakers. Chrysler led the way with a 20% year-over-year sales increase. Ford’s were up 7% and General Motors’ rose 16%. Foreign automakers also did well, with Nissan’s sales rising 28% in the U.S. and Toyota’s up 60%.
Some CEOs think quarter to quarter, and some have horizons a bit longer than that. Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, has often been criticized for thinking years ahead and pumping too much money into the business, thus depressing short-term quarterly profits. But it turns out he’s been thinking even more long-term than that.
Bezos, in partnership with the Long Now Foundation, is helping to fund—to the tune of $42 million—the construction of a clock that will be able to run unattended for 10,000 years. So much for planned obsolescence, the manufacturing philosophy that a piece of electronics should break down just before the next product cycle.
Prototypes of the clock have been in development since 1996 (or 01996, as the Long Now Foundation likes to label its dates; that extra zero drives home that we have a lot of time to fill up ahead of us). A smaller, eight-foot-tall 10,000-year clock was made in 1999 (or 01999) and now resides in the London Science Museum. The one currently under construction is a much bigger deal. It will be nearly 200 feet tall and will be buried under a mountain near the city of Van Horn in the far west of Texas.
To save energy, the clock will only display the time it announced to its latest visitor. A new visitor will wind up the clock’s display face, and the clock will then tell that new visitor the correct time, calculated perfectly in conjunction with readings of the noon sun. If no one makes the trek to the mountain in months, then the clock’s face will stay frozen in time. That’s a nice touch. The clock, like a patient guru on a remote mountaintop, will only reveal the time to human visitors who ask and are willing to supply their own power in the process. Otherwise it will sit silently, absorbing and storing thermal power so it can continue its 10-millennia-long mission.
Tomorrow’s Independence Day holiday, which celebrates an event more than 200 years ago, is as good an excuse as any to appreciate the long-term view. Thinking long-term wasn’t easy then, and it’s probably even harder now, with the time-shortening distortions of Facebook and 24-hour cable news and a country that, thanks to air travel, can be crossed in hours instead of weeks and months. Enjoy the celebrations, the fireworks, and the continued renewal of the American spirit. We’ve made it from 01776 to 02012, with a lot more time to go.