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Stocks slogging through

By ANTHONY HALL, United Press International   |   Nov. 1, 2012 at 9:57 AM   |   Comments

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Here is one item Hurricane Sandy did not wash out to sea: The slump in stock markets.

Running on the power of backup generators the New York Stock Exchange was up and running Wednesday, but stocks were flat once again even as investors reacted two days later than normal on some of the week's business news.

Apple Monday announced that it was dismissing two top executives, one who had bungled the launch of the company's map program and one, the head of retail, who had never fit in well with the company, anyway.

Some analysts cheered the signal that Apple under Tim Cook would be just as ruthless – or say, maintain the same high standards – as it was under the late Steve Jobs, who drove the company to a level of excellence and value that will be hard to match.

But even Apple shares are down of late, in part due to too much success.

The iPhone 5 has been so popular that soon after its launch the company was running low on supplies.

Clearly, under Cook Apple has not been resting on its laurels. It is charging into the holiday season with the new phone, the newly launched iPad mini, a new iPod Touch, a new generation iPad with retina display and a new Mac computer. Specifically, CNet reported the company increased its spending on research and development by 39 percent in 2012 over 2011, dropping $3.4 billion on R&D in its fiscal year.

So-called activist investor, Carl Icahn scooped up 10 percent of Netflix it was announced Thursday, which gave the DVD rental and movie download firm a boost. Walt Disney Co., in turn, spent $4 billion buying the Star Wars franchise and Industrial Light & Magic with its purchase of Lucasfilm.

How much is that per Wookiee? The price of the franchise might include Disney's 2 percent market value drop after the deal was announced.

In turn, Icahn's influence on Netflix is undetermined at this point. In the first place, his purchase was afforded an immediate discount given share values rose after it was announced. In the second place, 10 percent of Netflix gives the investor what might be called megaphone status. In other words, he doesn't own the company, but he owns a large enough share to be granted a voice in the media and in shareholder meetings that cannot be ignored. Icahn's strategy is to buy first, then start complaining. As such, the investors' wish list should be just around the corner.

The Labor Department announced that the hurricane, which has caused an estimated $20 billion in damage -- would not derail its monthly employment situation report Friday.

It is one last official chance to embarrass President Barack Obama or offer him bragging rights near the conclusion of a very tight political campaign.

The unemployment rate is the headline number that dropped to 7.8 percent in September.

It may be that more people are dropping out of the workforce out of sheer frustration than finding jobs, but that level of explanation is often lost in the scorching immediacy of an election campaign. Even a steady 7.8 percent unemployment rate likely favors the president and will come off as whining if GOP candidate Mitt Romney tries to make 7.8 percent sound catastrophic.

That said, some are betting the unemployment rate will rise, given 7.8 percent could be a low enough figure to ironically lure some of those frustrated workers back to looking for work, tipping the momentum the other way.

In international markets Thursday, the Nikkei 225 index in Japan gained 0.21 percent, while the Shanghai composite index in China rose 1.72 percent. The Hang Seng index in Hong Kong added 0.83 percent, while the Sensex in India climbed 0.3 percent.

The S&P/ASX 200 in Australia slipped 1.32 percent.

In midday trading in Europe, the FTSE 100 index in Britain gained 0.84 percent, while the DAX 30 in Germany added 0.77 percent. The CAC 40 in France rose 0.82 percent, while the Stoxx Europe 600 climbed 0.68 percent.

© 2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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