While attention has been on the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy and anticipation over the official jobs report tomorrow, today offered a slew of encouraging economic data that led to the major indexes pushing solidly higher for the day. Consumer confidence hit a nearly five-year high, manufacturing activity expanded at a faster pace, and the ADP jobs report showed more job gains than expected.
The Dow jumped 136 points, with 26 of its 30 components gaining ground; the S&P 500 rose 15; and the Nasdaq was higher by 42. Advancers led decliners by 10 to 3 on the NYSE and just under two to one on the Nasdaq. The prices of Treasuries weakened. Gold futures fell $3.60 to close at $1,715.50 an ounce, and the price of crude oil gained 85 cents to settle at $87.09 a barrel.
In Earnings News:
- Exxon Mobil Corp. reported a 7.4% decrease in third-quarter net income on lower prices and falling production. The energy giant reported net income of $9.57 billion, or $2.09 a share, compared with $10.33 billion, or $2.13 a share, in the year-ago quarter. Revenue was $115.7 billion, down 7.7%. While production showed weaker results, refining profits were strong during the quarter. Exxon’s shares (XOM) gained 0.47%.
In Other Business News:
- The U.S. economy added 158,000 private-sector jobs in October, according to payroll-processing firm ADP. The figure was better than expected, and it stems from an adjusted sampling process used by ADP that analysts had assumed would lead to lower numbers. Using the new method, for example, led to a downward revision of September’s job gains, from 162,000 to 88,200.
- The pace of manufacturing activity increased slightly in October, according to the Institute for Supply Management’s manufacturing index. The index rose from 51.5 to 51.7; a reading above 50 indicates economic expansion. The production and new orders components strengthened during the month, while the manufacturing employment and prices-paid components showed slower rates of growth while still expanding.
- In October, The Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index hit the highest level since February 2008, before the financial crisis and at the beginning of the recession. The index rose to 72.2, pushed higher by more confidence about employment prospects and improving business conditions.
- Insured losses caused by Hurricane Sandy could cost $20 billion, according to an analysis by The Wall Street Journal, while total (insured and uninsured) losses could range between $30 billion and $50 billion. The total of insured losses would put Sandy behind only Hurricane Katrina, which led to $41 billion in insured claims.
Welcome to the latest edition of, “Technology giveth, and technology taketh away—and seems to be focused on the taketh part right now.”
- Facebook, as the saying now goes, is where you learn that you really dislike certain of your family and friends you’ve known all your life. Mainly, this is because now you get to hear the unvarnished opinions of people who, in the pre-Facebook age, never accosted you with their rants because social good graces in the real world didn’t allow for it.
Enter election season. Given that Facebook’s user base has grown nearly tenfold since the 2008 election, this is possibly the first election in which many people are exposed to the political opinions—both reasoned and not so reasoned—of their extended network of friends and relatives. Luckily, it’s also the first year in which they can block those opinions. A new extension for the Google Chrome browser called “noppl” (No Politics, Please) lets you block all posts that contain politically charged keywords of your choosing (the candidates’ names, for a start). So before you resort to the nuclear option of mass defriendings—and I can’t believe I just used the nonword “defriendings”—give this extension a try and block the rants before they block your sanity. Now what we need is some sort of blocker for political TV ads in swing states.
- Speaking of inconveniences specific to our modern age, a devastating illness has afflicted great swaths of the United Kingdom. No one knows if it’s contagious or where the outbreak originated. All we know so far is that 66% of those in the United Kingdom have come down with nomophobia, according to the Detroit News (and no, it’s not a fear of the no-hitting pitcher Hideo Nomo). Symptoms include anxiety; the obsessive-compulsive touching of one’s pants pockets or purse; the existential dread that you’re somehow unreachable—perhaps curtained off behind the unbridgeable gap that yawns between the interior “I” and the exterior world; and a sense of waiting for something to happen but never having that sense fulfilled, like in Samuel Beckett’s classic play Waiting for Godot, where the protagonists are waiting, always waiting, for someone who never arrives. Yes, nomophobia—no mobile phone phobia—is the fear of being without your cell phone.
Skepticism is called for here. With many cell phone towers inoperable after Sandy, people on the East Coast seem to be taking the loss of cell phones as best as could be hoped for (which isn’t to say it’s easy). The problem, though, isn’t generalized anxiety; it’s the specific frustrations caused by not being able to reach the insurance company, for example, or any of the hundred other calls you’d need to make when your house is flooded or you can’t get to work or you’re stuck in traffic for three hours. It’s probably more likely that the ones who are anxious, and understandably so, are those outside the region who can’t reach their friends and loved ones who suffered through the storm. So as long as we’re inventing new phobias, let’s invent one more: the fear of someone else not having a cell phone: nomophobia by proxy.