Stocks drifted higher on light trading as cautious investors sat on the sidelines, avoiding any major movements prior to tomorrow’s election. The Dow gained 19 points, with 16 of its 30 components moving higher; the S&P 500 rose 3; and the Nasdaq advanced 17. Advancers led decliners by three to two on the Nasdaq and were nearly even on the NYSE. The prices of Treasuries strengthened. Gold futures rebounded from their Friday losses and climbed $8.00 to close at $1,683.20 an ounce. The price of crude oil rose $0.79 to $85.65 a barrel.
In Earnings News:
- Time Warner Cable’s shares slipped today after the country’s second-largest cable provider announced numbers that fell short of analysts’ expectations. The company’s profits more than doubled thanks to strong growth in high-speed data revenue, but it lost more video subscribers than expected. Net income increased to $808 million, or $2.60 a share, from $356 million, or $1.08 a share, a year ago. Earnings per share rose to $1.41 from $1.11 last year, and revenue rose 9.2% to $5.36 billion. Analysts expected per-share earnings of $1.43 and revenue of $5.39 billion. Time Warner Cable’s (TWC) shares fell 6%.
- Third-quarter earnings at Humana fell 4.3% from a year earlier to $426 million, or $2.62 a share, beating analysts’ expectations of $2.05 a share. Revenue increased by 3.8% to $9.65 billion. The company also announced a number of acquisitions, raised its full-year 2012 guidance, and provided an earnings forecast of $7.60 to $7.80 a share in 2013. Humana’s (HUM) shares gained 0.41%.
- Electric-car maker Tesla Motors posted larger-than-expected losses for the third quarter. Tesla reported that its losses increased to $110.8 million, or $1.05 a share, from a loss of $65.1 million, or 63 cents a share, a year ago. Excluding one-time items, Tesla posted an adjusted loss of 92 cents a share. Analysts expected a loss of 90 cents per share. However, the company also announced that it is now able to mass produce 200 cars per week, up from five at the beginning of the quarter, which is the threshold needed for Tesla to generate a positive operating cash flow. Investors cheered the news and sent the stock (TSLA) up nearly 9%.
In Other Business News:
- The Institute for Supply Management’s services index fell to 54.2 in October from 55.1 in September, the first time the index has slowed since June. New orders declined, but the measure of employment rose to its highest level in seven months.
- Apple reported that it sold 3 million iPad minis and fourth-generation iPads over the three-day weekend, which was a new launch-weekend record. Apple (AAPL) gained 1%.
- Netflix’s board of directors adopted a poison-pill plan to avoid a hostile takeover by activist investor Carl Icahn, who owned 9.98% of the firm as of October 31. The new plan would give current shareholders the right to purchase additional shares in the event that someone acquires a stake of 10% or more in the firm. Netflix’s shares (NFLX) moved higher by 1% in today’s trading.
- Stifel Financial Corp. agreed to acquire KBW, Inc., in a cash-and-stock deal worth $575 million. KBW shareholders will receive $17.50 per share, which is a 7% premium to KBW’s Friday close. The move will expand Stifel’s footprint in the financial services industry. Stifel’s (SF) and KBW’s (KBW) shares rose 2% and 7%, respectively.
Good news for everyone who overindulged last week during Halloween: Chocolate has been making health headlines a lot lately. Recent studies have shown it’s good for your heart, your skin, and even taking care of a pesky cough. And the benefits (or perceived benefits) of chocolate aren’t new. The November edition of mental_floss magazine looks at candy marketing during the Great Depression, when candy wasn’t necessarily on the top of a grocery list.
- Goo Goo Clusters, with their chocolate, caramel, peanuts, and marshmallow nougat, were “prescribed” for malnourishment: “A nourishing lunch for a nickel.” (I’ve been guilty of grabbing a Snickers for lunch, which was satisfying, of course, but even a chocoholic like me wouldn’t go so far as to call that nourishing.)
- Baby Ruth bars could solve your problem with chronic fatigue. In fact, they did studies that showed a 120-pound person could drive a car for six hours and 40 minutes—just by eating this single 5-cent candy bar. (Who needs a Five-hour ENERGY drink? This sounds much more delicious and lasts longer.)
- And did you know Milky Way bars contain vitamins A and D? Perfect for fighting off infections and preventing rickets.
I can’t imagine those arguments would hold up too well in today’s medical world. But I did find another interesting study about a link between chocolate and Nobel Prizes. Dr. Franz Messerli, a cardiologist at St. Luke’s–Roosevelt Hospital in New York City, studied the correlation between how much chocolate was consumed in a country and how smart that country was. Since there isn’t a lot of data on the cognitive abilities of countries, he used the number of Nobel Prizes awarded per capita as a stand in. His results were published in a “note” in the New England Journal of Medicine.
He found a “surprisingly powerful correlation” between the two. The more chocolate consumed per capita, the more Nobel Prizes were awarded. Switzerland came in first place, followed by Sweden, then Denmark. The U.S. placed in the middle of the pack. Per Dr. Messerli’s calculation, if the U.S. wanted to produce one more laureate, the country would need to consume an additional 125 million kilograms (275 million pounds) of chocolate per year. Let’s get crackin’ folks. (Of course, correlation doesn’t imply causation, so even Dr. Messerli admits that chocolate doesn’t necessarily make you smarter, but rather, smart people know the benefits and therefore eat more.)
Finally—some justification for having a cupboard full of Cocoa Puffs and Cocoa Krispies. (Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so why not eat something that will make you smarter?) Then a Goo Goo Cluster for lunch and a Baby Ruth to get me through my afternooon slump. There’s nothing that can go wrong with that plan, right? (Except for losing all my teeth and gaining a ton of weight. A girl can dream, though.)