Trading volume was light today ahead of Thursday’s market holiday, and U.S. stocks finished on two-week highs on news that a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas had been reached. However, lenders failed to reach an agreement to release emergency aid to Greece, which limited market gains. The S&P 500 Index rose for a fourth consecutive day, and Boeing and United Technologies were top advancers. In addition, salesforce.com, the largest maker of online customer-management software, rose 8.8% after reporting that sales and profit forecasts were in line with projections.
The Dow gained 48 points, the Nasdaq edged higher by 9, and the S&P 500 rose by 3 points. Twenty-four of the Dow’s 30 components gained ground. On the New York Stock Exchange, advancing issues outnumbered decliners for the day by nearly two to one. The prices of Treasuries strengthened, and the price of gold futures increased 0.26% to $1,728.20 an ounce. The price of crude oil on the New York Mercantile Exchange rose 0.72% to $87.38 a barrel.
In Earnings News:
- Deere & Co. (DE) reported an 11% increase in net income for its fiscal third quarter but fell short of analysts’ expectations. The world's largest producer of agricultural equipment also cut its revenue prediction for the year, and investors reacted strongly as shares fell more than 6%.
- Donaldson Co.'s (DCI) announced a 21% decline in earnings for its fiscal first quarter. The industrial-filter company continues to suffer from reduced demand in many of its end markets.
In Other Business News:
- The Labor Department reported a 41,000 decrease in jobless claims to 410,000 for the week that ended November 17, but levels remain elevated from the effects of Hurricane Sandy.
- The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan final index of U.S. consumer sentiment for November was little changed at 82.7 from 82.6 and rose less than analysts had expected.
- The Conference Board’s index of leading economic indicators rose 0.2% in October after a revised 0.5% increase in September, suggesting businesses are halting investments in anticipation of domestic fiscal policy changes slated for January.
- U.S. mortgage rates fell again this week as both the 30-year and 15-year fixed rate loans set records. The 30-year dropped to 3.31% from 3.34% last week, and the 15-year rate declined to 2.63% from 2.65% a week ago, according to Freddie Mac.
- Hostess Brands Inc. will renew its plans to fully liquidate following a failed mediation session with its bakers' union. The Twinkie maker has already closed its plants, and a permanent shutdown will leave approximately 18,500 workers unemployed.
I spent this past weekend raking leaves. All day Saturday; all day Sunday. And I had already logged several hours earlier in the season. While ours is not a huge piece of property—less than an acre—the original owners saw fit to pack it with the maximum amount of leaf- and needle-bearing trees. I truly love this time of year in New England, but each autumn presents me with the same conundrum: Do I clean up my own yard or pay a service to have it done?
To my wife, it’s a no brainer. She wouldn’t dream of wasting her precious time on such a mind-numbing and exhausting task. And as I sit here nursing my achy back, sore muscles, and callused hands, I can see she has a point. But there remains a prudent part of me—a holdover from my blue-collar upbringing—that asks, “Are you going to pay someone $450 for something you can do yourself? Must be nice to have money to burn.”
While at first, $450 seemed like a great deal of money; three weekends into the raking, it suddenly didn’t sound so bad. It was, maybe, even a bargain. During the great deal of alone time I had in the yard, I began to contemplate what my time was actually worth. If time is money, what price tag could I apply to the hours of raking, bagging, hauling, and complaining? Should I have spent them doing more important things, like connecting with my kids, going to the gym, or helping humankind? But, would I really be doing any of those things? The kids’ weekend schedules are booked solid with birthday parties, play dates, and extracurricular activities. And if I weren’t raking leaves, I’d likely be doing some other task around the house.
Truth be told, it’s not all about the money. I had a genuine sense of accomplishment when my yard was officially leaf free and ready for the first snow. That one year when I broke down and hired a service, I was certainly glad the raking was done. But as I looked out my window at the tidy lawn, a vague sorrow and sense of guilt crept in. Was it frivolous, entitled, and lazy to let someone else do my yard work? I’m sure next year I’ll go through the same pros-and-cons exercise, and honestly, I can’t say where I’ll end up (unless my back still hurts, in which case the decision will be a lot easier).