Water Cooler Finance: A Diving Dow And Rotting Eggs

By Michael Deane | August 24, 2010 AAA
Water Cooler Finance: A Diving Dow And Rotting Eggs

Last week was full of exciting business news, which may or may not fall under the category of exciting regular news. Anyone involved in the business world was on the edge of their seat with a rising then falling Dow, mergers and attempted takeovers galore, IPOs, lawsuits and scandal.

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But there's more! There were also some surprising and hope-inspiring earnings releases, and in consumer news, it looks like drivers will get a break at the pump by the end of the summer, just in time to drive around and look at those fall colors. (Did you miss last week's news? Catch up by reading Water Cooler Finance: Billionaire Pledges and Other Positive Press.)

The Diving Dow
The week started off well enough, with Dow's seven-day losses ending on Tuesday, only to return again on Thursday. The reason for the 1.4% loss on Thursday was mostly attributed to the nine-month record high weekly jobless report that reared its ugly head, letting everyone know (in case they didn't already) that the recovery is going to be long and unpredictable.

The new jobless claims rose by 12,000 from the week before, to 500,000, according to The Department of Labor. The Dow ended down on Friday, marking two straight weeks of losses amid increased investor skepticism regarding the ever-tenuous economic recovery. (Should you care about the Dow's movement? Find out in Why The Dow Matters.)

Tech-tastic!
In business news, things were a bit more upbeat, as some earnings announcements were positive, especially in tech, and there was more than one exciting takeover announcement. Computer stalwarts Hewlett-Packard and Dell both reported increased profits, by 6% and 15%, respectively. This is good news for those hoping for a steady recovery, as it means that both personal and business spending has gone up; HP is the largest personal computer seller in the world, and Dell makes a large portion of its income from selling to businesses.

Takeover Triumph and Trouble
Also in the tech world, Intel is buying security-software company McAfee for $7.68 billion. Intel is ready to expand out of its computer chip dominance, and is making its first big move in possibly becoming a tech conglomerate. A less successful takeover was announced by BHP, as it made an unsolicited bid to buy Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan. PCS felt the bid was severely low and the company's board refused the offer.

Government Motors No More
General Motors filed its IPO registration on Wednesday, meaning the company will return to being a publicly traded stock, after its bankruptcy and subsequent government bailout in 2009. The U.S. Treasury currently has a 61% stake in the company, but will begin to unload some its stock during the IPO. This may mean that the G in GM may no longer be jokingly said to stand for government. In the next few months it will be determined just how big the IPO will be, and what the stocks will be valued at.

Lawsuits, Recalls and Some Good News
For those not enthralled by hostile takeovers, IPOs and struggling stock markets - there was also some drama! The Bank of America's ex-CEO Ken Lewis and consumer banking chief Joe Price are being sued by the New York Attorney General on accusations of fraud. The accusations stem from the bank's takeover of Merrill Lynch, and the alleged concealing of losses from Merrill Lynch's fourth-quarter. Lewis and Price maintain complete innocence.

Something stinks in the state of Iowa as a salmonella egg recall has now reached a half-billion. The eggs were sold between April and August throughout the U.S. under the names Hillandale Farms, Sunny Farms, Sunny Meadow, Wholesome Farms and West Creek. There have been no deaths, but around 2,000 illnesses. We'll have to wait and see if the recalls widen and how much it hurts the U.S. egg industry. (What are companies thinking when they issue a recall? Find out in Finessing A Recall.)

Consumers and businesses have a bit of good news going forward, however, as Associated Press article suggested that gas prices should fall after Labor Day, due to supply and demand. The article claims that "one expert says prices could drop as much as 15 cents a gallon." That could lead to better prices overall, and can free up a bit of money to spend on getting the economy going again. Or at least we can hope.

The Bottom Line
With the GM IPO, the ongoing PCS drama, the Bank of America court case and the developing egg recall, things are going to be pretty exciting in the business world over coming weeks and months. And if the price of gas actually does go down after Labor Day, there could even be some exciting news for consumers.

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