Saturday, March 22, 2008

Global Investing Roundups

Wall St. Takes Good Friday Off; Intel Kicks Dividend up 10%; Borders Halts Dividend; Verizon and AT&T Bid Big; Leading Economic Index Lags; Pepsi Juices Russia’s Market; Unemployment Gathers Steam; FedEx Fails to Deliver

  • The U.S. markets closed the week yesterday (Thursday) in observance of the Good Friday holiday, today. The blue-chip Dow Jones Industrial Average Index closed at 12,361.32. The tech-laden Nasdaq Composite Index closed at 2,258.11. And the broader Standard & Poor’s 500 Index closed at 1,329.51. The markets will reopen on Monday.
  • Intel Corp. (INTC) raised its quarterly dividend to 14 cents a share, about a 10% increase, sending its shares up a handy 3.13% in Thursday trading to close at $21.75 yesterday. The new dividend will be payable June 1 to shareholders of record on May 7, Reuters reported.
  • Shares of Borders Group, Inc. (BGP), the second-largest U.S. bookstore chain, continued to plunge yesterday as the company announced it halted its dividend and hinted that it may put itself up for sale. In the past couple years, the world’s largest retailer Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (WMT) and online retailing juggernaut, Inc. (AMZN) have dented Borders’ market share.
  • The Federal Communication Commission announced yesterday (Thursday) that Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ) and AT&T Inc. (T) were the biggest spenders at a U.S. government auction of wireless licenses that raised a record $19.59 billion, Reuters reported. Major existing carriers won a large portion of the licenses, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin said, but a large percentage of the licenses also went to smaller companies.
  • The Conference Board reported its index of leading economic indicators fell 0.3% in February, it’s fifth straight monthly decline. "Growth will be weak this spring," said Ken Goldstein, labor economist for the Conference Board, MarketWatch reported. "A small contraction in economic activity cannot be ruled out."
  • PepsiCo Inc. (PEP) announced Thursday that it will pay $1.4 billion for majority stake in Russia’s biggest juice company, JSC Lebedyansky. The deal expands Pepsi’s business in a key growth market outside the U.S. Reuters reported. "It’s a substantial deal," Beverage Digest editor John Sicher said. He added that because PepsiCo’s bigger rival, The Coca-Cola Co. (KO) has such a big lead in carbonated soft drinks globally, the deal is "strategically very smart for Pepsi."
  • The number of newly laid off workers filing for unemployment benefits rose last week to a two-month high, evidence that the weak economy is continuing to press employers. The Labor Department said yesterday (Thursday) that applications for jobless benefits totaled 378,000 last week, an increase of 22,000 from the week prior and a far bigger jump than had been expected.
  • FedEx Corp. (FDX) reported a 6% drop in third-quarter earnings due to high oil prices and a slow U.S. economy. The company said it would miss Wall Street forecasts for the fourth quarter. "As we survey the current economic landscape, we expect limited earnings growth in [2009], given the current outlook for macro-economic conditions and fuel prices," Chairman and CEO Frederick W. Smith told market analysts in a conference call. FedEx said it earned $393 million, or $1.26 a share, in the three months ended Feb. 29 versus $420 million, or $1.35 a share, for the same period last year.

Commodities are on a tear - and so is mining equipment. This "pick-and-shovel" company has already sold out two-thirds of its equipment for 2008. Australia, Canada and China are battling for orders. And the Street hasn't figured it out yet.

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