Water Cooler Finance: The New iPod And The Roller Coaster Market

By Erin Joyce | September 02, 2010 AAA

It was a historic week, as August 31 marked the official end of U.S. combat operations in Iraq after seven years of war. President Obama made no mention of the word "victory" in his address to the nation, but instead spoke of a continued commitment to the people of Iraq. For support, 50,000 American troops will remain in the country. That minor news blip aside, what else was happening in the markets?

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In The Markets

On September 1, automakers reported the worst August for auto sales in 27 years, according to CNNMoney. With sales just short of 1 million vehicles, the 21% drop from a year ago fell short of analysts' modest expectations. Luckily, the stock market wasn't paying attention to the cars as U.S. stocks grew the most since July, with the S&P 500 gaining 3%, according to Bloomberg. An unprecedented upswing in Chinese and American manufacturing helped push the index up.

However, volatility in the Treasury market hit a three-month high as the instruments declined for the first time in three days in response to the manufacturing increase. Are you feeling seasick yet? Hold on to your hats - September is historically the worst month for stocks. (For more, check out our FAQ on Why people say September is the worst month for investing.)

Tech Toys

In the technology sector, big dogs Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) and Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) both had news to share. Apple announced the revamping of its iPod lineup, including a new look, a touchscreen for the Nano and a more iPhone-like iPod Touch. The Touch will now be compatible with Apple's FaceTime video chat feature.

Apple TV is also getting a makeover - and a sale tag. The product will allow you to stream movies and TV shows for a small price, similar to how iTunes operates now. The box itself is now one-fourth the size of previous models, and it will cost $99 – a sharp drop from the previously announced $229.

iTunes Sings With Ping

Just in case none of that news was of interest to you, Apple also announced the launch of a new iTunes update that includes Ping, a social network feature that will allow users to follow the music preferences of friends and artists, according to USA Today.

Not one to be caught sitting idly by, Google made a social media announcement of its own. On August 30, the internet search giant acquired SocialDeck, a social gaming company. With SocialDeck, you can play games, such as Color Connect and PetHero MD, on your smartphone or on social networking sites like Facebook accessed through your PC.

BP & Buffett - WCF Essentials

If you missed hearing about the big headliners in finance, we've got you covered. BP has reported tripling its advertising spending since the oil spill, with BusinessWeek reporting BP's bill coming in at $93.4 million for television, print and web-based advertising. That's an awful lot of polish to shine up the company's corporate image.

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August 30 marked perhaps the most talked about birthday in the financial world: Warren Buffett's. The Oracle of Omaha became an octogenarian this year, and many used the occasion to speculate on when he will die and who will replace him. In fact, apparently money manager Whitney Tilson used a life expectancy calculator to estimate how much time Buffett has left – apparently 12 years. I know I like to spend my birthday reading about my own mortality on the internet! In retaliation, Buffett declared he intends to work well past age 100.

The Bottom Line

The roller coaster that is the financial market continues to threaten to jump tracks, but take heart; at least Apple continues to deliver exciting, shiny gadgets for us to play with. And at least when it's my birthday, I don't have to hear the speculations of thousands as to when I will die. Hopefully Buffett's $62 billion estimated net worth eases the pain.

If you missed last week's financial news; read Water Cooler Finance: The Ups And Downs Of A Double-Dip Recession.

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