Water Cooler Finance: The iPhone Launch, Buffett's Lunch And BP's Lashing

By Michael Deane | June 14, 2010 AAA
Water Cooler Finance: The iPhone Launch, Buffett's Lunch And BP's Lashing

Last week seemed much calmer than the past few months of financial news. There was some positive news in the markets as the DJIA bounced back from the week's early losses. Things continue to be troubled for BP, at least in North America, and GM had a week full of both the very good and very bad news. Retail reports exposed the trouble with the U.S. consumer rebound, and Apple's worst kept secret finally had its big reveal. And let's not forget about Buffett, who raised $2.63 million for charity, just by eating lunch. (Did you catch last week's news? Read Water Cooler Finance: Buffett Speaks Up, AIG Deal Collapses.)

In Pictures: The Baby Buffett Portfolio

The DJIA Roller Coaster
The Dow may be in the running for the most thrilling ride around. The DJIA started the week by hitting a seven-month low of 9,816.49. As it goes when this happens, gold shot up. Thursday saw better news with the Dow rallying back up over that magical figure of 10,000, before poor retail reports brought it back down mid-Friday. However, there was an end of the day rise and the DJIA ended the week at 10,211.07.

The retail report exposed the consumer weaknesses that still exist within the American economy, as retail sales dropped 1.2%. It was pointed out by some analysts that now that many of the consumer-focused tax rebates (cash-for-appliances, first-time homebuyers, etc) have ended, an accurate picture of consumer spending is emerging, and it ain't pretty. (Learn why these figures matter in Using Consumer Spending As A Market Indicator.)

GM's Mixed Week
There was some déjà vu and mixed news for General Motors this week. GM, which went into bankruptcy protection and received a $50 billion government bailout last year, is ready to once again go public. The Wall Street Journal reported that Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan Chase are expected to be the banks underwriting the deal. That's the good GM news, but it wasn't all good this week as GM recalled 1.5 million vehicles due to problems that could lead to a fire. The company announced that it must disable a feature that heats windshield wiper fluid, and will pay each owner $100 because the feature will no longer work.

BP Gets Punished
Most people probably didn't expect this BP (NYSE:BP) incident to go on for six weeks, but it has. Now that marine wildlife, the environment as a whole, the residents of Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, and many others have suffered, BP is getting hammered. BP stock is down over 40% since the spill happened in April, and the U.S. government is making many claims about forcing BP to pay even more than initially expected - raising concerns about dividend cuts. Whether or not this actually happens, it's a sure thing that things will be tough for BP in the medium term. Farther away from the oil spill, European investors seem to still have some faith in BP. BP shares climbed 7.2% on Friday.

Eurozone No Longer in Trouble?
The days of fiery riots in Greece are over, but the lawmakers and politicians are still working out a plan for how to put the eurozone back on its feet. Surprisingly, Greece and Portugal released positive economic news this week. Greece revealed that it had managed to cut its national budget in the first five months of the year, and that its revenue was up 8%. One of the other worrisome European countries, Portugal, announced that its economy had been expanding so far in 2010. The eurozone rescue package was also completed this past week, with the eurozone finance ministers approving a $520 billion bailout. (What's the worst possible fate for the euro? Find out in Disbanding The Euro - A Worst-Case Scenario.)

Apple's Worst Kept Secret
Apple finally revealed the iPhone 4G this week to much less attention than usually accompanies such an announcement. The reason, of course, is because everyone already knew about the 4G after an Apple employee left the prototype in a bar in April. However, with new features like a front-facing camera with flash, movie editing software, an eBook reader, HD video recording and more, people will still be lining up to get them. It wasn't all good news for Apple this week, as AT&T faced a security breach that leaked the email addresses of 114,000 iPad 3G users. The FBI has since become involved in the investigation, but the fallout has been much less severe than one might expect when dealing with the mass leaking of personal information. (For related reading, check out 6 Infamous Product Leaks.)

Buffett's $2.63 Million Lunch Tab
In case you noticed a suspicious lack of Buffett in this week's financial news, let's remedy that. Buffett's annual lunch auction, which closed at 10:30 on Friday night, reached $2.63 million. The winner and seven friends get to have a steak lunch with the Oracle. The proceeds from this auction go to the Glide Foundation in San Francisco.

Bottom Line
It'll be interesting to see how BP deals with the fallout in the weeks ahead and whether GM's recall will affect its IPO in any material way. Apple's been on a roll for a long time, and despite the non-surprise that was the iPhone 4G presentation, there will most likely be high demand for it. As for the eurozone, well, there seems to be some progress - it just depends on whether you think that successful countries putting themselves on the line to pull up more troubled countries is a good idea. And for the purchasers of one of the most expensive lunches in history, let's hope that Buffett imparts two and a half million dollars worth of wisdom. (You don't have to pay $2 million to get an idea of his stock picking methodology. Just check out Warren Buffett: How He Does It.)

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