The major indexes continued to retreat: The Dow lost 121 points in Thursday’s session and closed lower by almost 450 points (or more than 3%) in two days. The Nasdaq lost 41 points in this session, and the S&P 500 fell 17 points. Twenty-six of the Dow’s 30 components lost ground, led by Cisco (CSCO), which declined by 2%. Volume was light, and advancing issues outnumbered decliners by almost three to one. The prices of Treasuries were mixed, while the price of gold futures gained 0.7% to $1,726.00 an ounce. The price of crude oil on the New York Mercantile Exchange gained 0.7% to $85.09 a barrel.
In Earnings News:
- Duke Energy announced earnings declined from $1.06 a share a year ago to 85 cents a share in the latest quarter, thanks in part to the acquisition of Progress Energy. Excluding costs associated with the acquisition and other one-time charges, the nation’s largest power company earned $1.47 a share, and the CEO said the company is on track to meet its full-year earnings forecast of up to $4.35 a share. The price of the stock (DUK) slipped lower by 0.6% in today’s session.
- Wendy’s reported its loss widened from one cent a share a year ago to 7 cents a share in the latest quarter as the cost of retiring debt hurt results. But the company also said revenue rose by 4%, and it doubled its dividend from 2 cents to 4 cents a share. The stock (WEN) gained 3%.
- Kohl’s announced earnings increased from 80 cents a share one year ago to 91cents a share in the latest quarter, and it also reported the board approved a plan to buy up to $3.5 billion of its own shares over the next three years. The price of the shares (KSS) lost 5% in today’s session.
In Other Business News:
- The nation’s trade deficit fell to $41.5 billion in September, its lowest level since December 2010, according to the Commerce Department. Exports increased by 3.1%, indicating that U.S. goods are holding up well in spite of the global economic slowdown. Exports to Europe, where some countries are in recession, remained flat.
- McDonald’s reported sales at restaurants open for a year or more declined by 1.8% in October, which is the first decline in the company’s same-store sales in nine years. The price of the shares (MCD) fell nearly 2%.
- New claims for unemployment benefits declined last week by 8,000 to 355,000, according to the Labor Department, but a spokesman for the department warned that the massive storms that hit the East coast in the past two weeks could push claims higher in the coming four weeks.
- Wal-Mart announced it would kick off its holiday shopping season earlier this year by opening its doors at 8:00 p.m. on Thanksgiving, which is two hours earlier than a year ago.
The old-fashioned publishing businesses—hard-copy journalism and books—continue to go through their agonizing search for a new business model. The latest event is the merger of Penguin Books, a unit of Pearson, and Random House, which is owned by Bertelsmann. The new entity will leapfrog France’s Lagardère to become the world’s largest publisher of consumer books with over 25% of the market. That sounds pretty big, but the underlying truth is that book publishers, like newspapers, are shrinking, and mergers like this one are designed to reduce costs so they can hang on a little longer against the real giant in the book publishing business: Amazon. Electronic publishing is rapidly taking over the business.
Will hardcover and paperback books disappear entirely? Probably not; there will long be niche uses for books on paper. But the time is not distant when one of your children or grandchildren will look up from his or her electronic reader and ask: “What’s a ‘page-turner’?” When that happens, you can explain to them that hard-copy books used to have a special place in people’s lives. Or, in the words of Groucho Marx: “Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.” (Then, when they ask “What’s a Groucho?”, show ‘em.)
In the meantime, it might help old-line publishers to get with the times. After all, they’re competing now with the Internet for the hearts and minds of young consumers, who are used to service providers with names like “Google” and “Yahoo”. But the name of the new entity is “Penguin Random House.” Pretty clunky, huh? How about “Random Penguin” instead? Or better still: “Daffy Duck”? (I know, that encroaches on somebody else’s territory, so “Dizzy Duck” will do. It’s got legs.)
On another note, if you are trying to figure out what the election results might mean to investors, view our special edition of On the Trading DeskSM, which is titled “Election Reaction” and features Brian Jacobsen, John Manley, and Jim Kochan.