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August 27, 2010

Stocks slump at the close

Filed under: finance — Tags: , , — Professor @ 12:15 pm

U.S. stocks ended a choppy day of trading lower Monday, as a dismal economic outlook overshadowed earlier optimism fueled by takeover talk.

After starting the session sharply higher and seesawing throughout the day, the Dow Jones industrial average (INDU) lost 39 points, or 0.4%, the S&P 500 (SPX) ticked down 4 points, or 0.4%, and the Nasdaq (COMP) composite dropped 20 points, or 0.9%.

It’s been a rocky ride for Wall Street over the past couple of weeks, as investors have shifted their focus between positive company news and gloomy economic readings.

Disappointing reports on jobs, manufacturing and economic activity battered confidence last week, dragging the Dow and S&P lower for the second straight week.

With little economic news on tap Monday, investors turned their attention to talk about takeover activity. But an early comeback failed to gain steam, ending in yet another down day for the three major indices.

"We’re trying to reverse some of those losses," said Steven Goldman, a market strategist at Weeden & Co. "But since economic data has been showing gradual signs of weakness there’s still an overshadowing concern that will likely keep any rally narrow and in a defensive tone."

Economy: No major economic releases were scheduled Monday, so investors were already looking ahead to the government’s revised reading of GDP due Friday, said Dave Rovelli, managing director of U.S. equities at Canaccord Adams.

Gross domestic product (GDP), the broadest measure of the nation’s economic activity, is forecast to be revised down to an annual rate of 1.4%, a significant drop from its previous reading of 2.4%.

"Everybody knows it’s going to be revised down, so everybody is nervous and just waiting for that number," said Rovelli. "But because it’s the last two weeks of August and stocks tend to drift higher when trading volume is so light, you may see the market start to rally until that GDP number comes out."

Last week, investors were hit with a slew of dismal indicators, including a report showing that weekly jobless claims surged to the highest level since November high risk personal loans.

Companies: Hewlett-Packard put in a bid early Monday for data-storage company 3PAR, offering $1.6 billion, a 33.3% premium on the offer proposed by rival Dell last week. Shares of 3PAR (PAR) spiked nearly 45%, while Dell’s (DELL, Fortune 500) stock slipped 1% and shares of HP (HP) fell 2%.

Shares of fertilizer producer Potash (POT) closed slightly higher after its board of directors told shareholders to reject a hostile takeover bid of $38 billion from mining company BHP Billiton (BHP), saying "superior offers or other alternatives are expected to emerge." Shares of BHP fell less than 1%.

The Gulf Coast Claims Facility, led by Kenneth Feinberg, will take over the BP oil spill claims process Monday. The claims will be paid using the $20 billion escrow account established by BP (BP). Shares of the oil company dipped less than 1%.

World markets: European shares closed higher. The CAC 40 in France rose 0.8%, Britain’s FTSE 100 gained 0.8% and the DAX in Germany was up 0.1%.

Asian markets slipped. Japan’s benchmark Nikkei index ended down 0.7%, the Hang Seng in Hong Kong fell 0.4% and the Shanghai Composite edged lower 0.1%.

Currencies and commodities: The dollar rose against the euro and the U.K. pound, but fell versus the Japanese yen.

Oil futures for October delivery slipped 72 cents to settle at $73.10 a barrel. Gold for December delivery edged down 30 cents to $1,228.50.

Bonds: Treasury prices were higher, and the yield on the 10-year note fell to 2.60% from 2.62% late Friday. Bond prices and yields move in opposite direction.

Market breadth: Market breadth was negative. On the New York Stock Exchange, losers outnumbered winners by two to one on volume of 865 million shares. On the Nasdaq, decliners beat advancers by nearly three to one on volume of 1.7 billion shares. 

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August 24, 2010

Atwood Oceanics makes Fortune’s ‘fastest-growing’ list

Filed under: online — Tags: , , — Professor @ 2:27 pm

Atwood Oceanics Inc. was named as the fastest growing company by Fortune magazine.

The Houston-based offshore driller was founded in 1968 and has about 1,000 employees.

Fortune reported Atwood (NYSE: ATW) posting 24 percent revenue growth, and 85 percent earnings per share growth, in the past three years. It slipped from a No. 45 rank last year.

Austin-based Luminex was the fastest-growing Texas firm on the list, coming in at No instant payday loan. 42 with 32 percent revenue growth over three years. No other Houston firms made the list.

Canada-based Eldorado Gold topped the list with 42 percent revenue growth in three years, followed by Vermont-based Green Mountain Coffee Roasters and Georgia-based Ebix.

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August 17, 2010

Apple manager charged in kickback scheme

Filed under: economics — Tags: , , — Professor @ 6:30 am

An Apple Inc. manager has been charged in a $1 million kickback scheme involving six Asian suppliers of iPhone and iPod accessories.

Paul Shin Devine, a 37-year-old Apple global supply manager from Sunnyvale, was named in federal indictments and a civil suit brought by Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) on Friday in San Jose.

The federal grand jury indictment charges Devince, who has been with Apple since 2005, with wire fraud, money laundering and other offenses.

The indictment also names Andrew Ang of Singapore, who works for Apple supplier Jin Li Mould Manufacturing Pte. Ltd.

Court filings on Friday said that Devine was paid by suppliers in Asia for inside information they could use to get negotiate favorable contracts with Apple.

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August 10, 2010

Saladworks to open 3 Triangle restaurants

Filed under: business — Tags: , — Professor @ 7:09 pm

Restaurant chain Saladworks has signed a franchise deal that will introduce the company’s salads, soups, wraps and Fusion sandwiches to the Triangle.

Conshocken, Pa.-based Saladworks said in a news release Tuesday that the father-and-son team of Baldev and Unmesh Patel will develop three Saladworks restaurants in Wake County. The company did not specify when or where in the county the restaurants would open.

The Patels are moving to the Triangle from southern New Jersey, where they own and manage locations for Dunkin Donuts, Hampton Inn, Comfort Inn, and Howard Johnson’s, Saladworks spokeswoman Erin Salvadore said No teletrak payday loan. The Saladworks locations will be the Patels’ first franchise locations in North Carolina, Salvadore said.

Saladworks operates more than 100 restaurants in 11 states, and the chain currently has another 60 locations in development.

Entrepreneur Magazine named Saladworks the nation’s top salad franchise for 2009 and 2010.

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August 7, 2010

Steady day on Wall Street for Birmingham firms

Filed under: management — Tags: , , — Professor @ 12:36 am

Local stocks remained steady or declined slightly in Friday trading.

Golden Enterprises Corp. (Nasdaq: GLDC) dropped 9 cents or 2.7 percent to finish at $3.20. BioCryst Pharmaceuticals (Nasdaq: BCRX) declined 15 cents or 2.6 percent to close at $5.69.

Hibbett Sporting Goods Inc. (Nasdaq: HIBB) dipped 63 cents or 2.3 percent to end the day at $26.91.

Other local stock action included:

Regions Financial Corp. (NYSE: RF) lost 1 percent or 7 cents to finish at $7.40.

Books-A-Million (Nasdaq: BAMM) dropped 9 cents or 1.5 percent to close at $5.99.

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August 5, 2010

U.S. recovery sputters

Filed under: business — Tags: , , — Professor @ 12:48 am

The U.S. economy continued to grow during the second quarter, the government reported Friday. But the pace slowed more than economists were expecting, raising concern about growth - or even another recession - in the months ahead.

Gross domestic product, the broadest measure of the nation’s economic activity, rose at a 2.4% annual rate during the three months ended June 30, the Commerce Department said.

The sluggish pace was down from the upwardly revised 3.7% growth rate in the first quarter, and missed economists’ forecast for a 2.5% increase.

Still, the figure marked the fourth straight quarter of growth and gave credence to some economists’ views that the recession that began in December 2007 likely ended at some point in mid-2009.

"This solid rate of growth indicates that the process of steady recovery from the recession continues," said Christina Romer, chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, in a statement.

"Nevertheless, faster growth is needed to bring about substantial reductions in unemployment," she added. "Much work clearly remains to be done before the U.S. economy is fully recovered."

Most troubling to economists - particularly in the months ahead - was a slowdown in consumer spending, which accounts for 70% of economic activity.

Nigel Gault, chief U.S. economist at IHS Global Insight, said the subdued consumer spending, pressured by high unemployment and debt as well as a lack of income and credit access, could lead to slower growth - or even another downturn.

"People are continuing to cut back, and that could mean that third-quarter growth will be the worst since the end of the recession," Gault said. "The slowing growth path leaves the possibility of a double-dip recession on the table."

The report showed consumer spending rose at a modest 1.6% rate last quarter. That compares to a 1.9% rise during the first quarter, revised down from a previously reported 3%.

A surge in imports also weighed on domestic growth, the government said. Imports spiked 28.8% during the second quarter, up from an 11.2% hike in the previous quarter.

But that increase was mostly due to 17% jump in business investments, as business increased spending by 22% on software and equipment, which Gault said are primarily produced outside of the United States.

"Businesses reduced spending very sharply last year during the recession by cutting costs and employees," Gault said. "The pullback helped them prop up profits. Companies are sitting on huge piles of cash, which they’re now putting to work."

While they’re willing to refresh their technology equipment, Gault said businesses are still cautious when it comes to hiring, and that will continue to strain the economy.

He added that the quarter’s significant increases in housing and government spending were driven by temporary factors and will likely reverse into declines in the current quarter.

The report showed that residential investment climbed 28% during the second quarter, as Americans rushed to buy homes ahead of the expiration of the homebuyer tax credit.

And government spending rose 9.2% during the quarter, up from 1.8% in the first quarter. Gault attributed that growth to spending related to the decennial census.

Recession deeper than previously thought

Revisions to annual GDP rates also released Friday indicated that the economic downturn was worse than the government previously estimated, and the recovery was more slack.

Between the fourth quarter of 2007, when the recession officially began, and the second quarter of 2009, when many economists say it ended, GDP dropped by 4.1%, marking the deepest recession since 1947. The government’s prior estimate for the overall decline during the period was 3.7%.

"It now appears that the financial crisis may have affected production substantially more quickly than was previously reported or realized at the time," Romer said.

The most significant factor in the downward revisions was muted consumer spending, but the data also showed that the consumer savings rate is higher than expected.

Annual growth rates for 2007, 2008 and 2009 were all revised lower.

In 2007, the government said the economy grew at a rate of 1.9%, down from the 2.1% it reported earlier. In 2008, economic activity was flat instead of ticking up 0.4%. And in 2009, the economy shrank at a rate of 2.6%, weaker than the 2.4% rate previously estimated.

"While the recession was somewhat deeper than originally thought, the recovery was also much more tepid that previously thought and is slowing rather than accelerating," said Martin Regalia, chief economist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has been critical of Obama administration business policies.

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