The major indexes wobbled indecisively before closing lower for the session. The Dow lost 28 points, the Nasdaq lost 9, and the S&P 500 fell by 2. Thirteen of the Dow’s 30 components gained ground, led by Cisco (CSCO), which rose 1.6%. Volume was light to moderate. Declining issues outnumbered advancers by two to one on the NYSE and by five to three on the Nasdaq. The prices of Treasuries were mixed while the price of gold futures declined by 0.9% to $1,713.80 an ounce. The price of crude oil on the New York Mercantile Exchange lost 1.0% to $85.87 a barrel.
In Earnings News:
- Target announced earnings increased from 82 cents a share a year ago to 96 cents a share in the latest quarter, helped by the sale of the consumer credit card receivables to TD Bank. Revenue rose 3.4%, and the earnings results beat Wall Street's estimates. The price of the shares (TGT) gained 1% in today's session.
- Wal-Mart reported earnings increased from 96 cents a share a year ago to $1.08 a share in the latest quarter. Revenue increased by 3.4% and the world’s largest retailer raised its earning estimate for the year, saying its fundamentals are strong and it is prepared for a robust holiday season. The company also indicated that the fourth quarter would be impacted by Hurricane Sandy, which closed 300 stores on the East Coast and caused an estimated $35 million in damage. The stock (WMT) lost 3%.
In Other Business News:
- The number of new claims for unemployment benefits increased by 78,000 to 439,000 last week, according to the Labor Department. The startling increase was due largely to Hurricane Sandy, which destroyed or temporarily closed many small businesses. The four-week moving average of clams increased more modestly to 383,750.
- Eurostat, the European Union's statistical bureau, announced that the eurozone is now officially in recession as the economy jointly shrank for the second quarter in a row. A decline of 0.2% in the second quarter of the year was followed by a 0.1% drop in the third quarter.
- Both the New York and the Philadelphia Federal Reserve manufacturing activity indexes reported contraction in November, thanks in large part to Hurricane Sandy, which damaged facilities throughout both regions.
- Procter & Gamble, which is cutting 10% of its non-manufacturing workforce this year, announced it would continue to reduce the payroll by eliminating between 2% and 4% of workers in the company’s fiscal years 2014, 2015, and 2016. P&G, which is the world’s largest consumer products company, also announced it would increase its stock repurchase plan from $4 billion to $6 billion. The stock (PG) slipped lower by 0.3% in today’s session.
- BP agreed to pay $4.5 billion, which includes $1.5 billion in criminal penalties, to settle charges against it for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico that killed 11 workers. The company will also plead guilty to felony misconduct.
Reading the news--online or paper copy--can be a downer sometimes. So if you’re a news junkie like me but you don’t want to delve into the depressing details, try reading only the headlines and skipping the details that follow. Headlines by themselves can be pretty entertaining. Here are examples culled from recent news reports and squirreled away in a folder we call “Headlines We Thought We’d Never See.”
- “Want to live longer? Move to NYC.” (That sounds vaguely like a threat.)
- “McDonald’s Big Mac Sauce Revealed.” (It’s mayo, relish, mustard, a dash of vinegar and a little flavoring of onion, garlic, and paprika--basically what grandma used to whip up for fish sticks.)
- “Anchorage Mayor Takes Oath of Office in Honolulu.” (Duh.)
- “Women Face Their Fears by Skydiving in Their Underwear.” (They sound fearless to me in more ways than one.)
- “Truck Hauling Chicken Burns in Town of Chili, N.Y.” (Food so fast it’s done before it reaches Taco Bell?)
- “Evolutionist Charles Darwin Gets 4,000 Write-In Votes in Georgia” (The voting process is always evolving.)
- “Will Obama Invite Romney to Join Cabinet?” (Although every President gets a “honeymoon” after the election and they say “politics makes strange bedfellows,” the answer to this question is: “No.”)
- “Hamburger Takes Balloon Ride Into Space” (Where’s the beef?)
- “North Carolina Judge Rules Against the New Year’s Eve Possum Drop” (Can we still hold the egg nog, Your Honor?)