October gains more treat than trick

The major indexes slipped lower for the second day, but they closed out October, which has a reputation for being a difficult month in the stock market, with strong gains. Today the Dow lost 73 points, the Nasdaq fell by 10, and the S&P 500 Index declined by 6. Twenty-one of the Dow’s 30 components lost ground, led by Visa (V), which lost 3%. Volume was light to moderate, and declining issues outnumbered advancers by about three to two. The prices of Treasuries were mixed, while the price of gold futures declined by 1.90% to $1,323.70 an ounce. The price of crude oil on the New York Mercantile Exchange lost 0.40% to $96.38 a barrel.

For the month, the Dow gained 2.75%, the Nasdaq advanced by almost 4%, and the S&P 500 Index increased by more than 4%.

In Earnings News:

  • ExxonMobil announced earnings fell from $2.09 a share a year ago to $1.79 a share in the latest quarter as a big decline in profitability in “downstream” operations of refining and marketing more than offset improvements in “upstream” oil and gas production. The price of the company’s shares (XOM) gained 0.9% in today’s session.
  • MasterCard reported earnings improved from $6.17 a share a year ago to $7.27 a share in the latest quarter. Revenue increased by 16% as an oversea gain of 19% outpaced revenue growth of 10% in the U.S. The company’s stock (MA) declined 1.1%.

In Other Business News:

  • The Chicago Purchasing Managers’ Index, a measure of business strength in the Chicago region, surged from 55 in September to 65 today, according to the Institute for Supply Management-Chicago. It was the biggest one-month gain in 30 years and was driven by the strength of new orders. Some observers expected a lower reading following the federal government shutdown.
  • New claims for unemployment benefits fell last week by 10,000 to 340,000, according to the Labor Department. The four-week moving average of claims rose by 8,000 to 356,000. Jobless claims data have been skewed in recent weeks by data collection glitches and the government shutdown, but experts believe that from this week onward, those influences will be worked out of the system and the numbers will be a more reliable reflection of trends in the labor market.


Ah, Halloween. I used to love Halloween, but now I only like it. Frankly, made-up spooks pale next to the real thing—and I’m not referring only to the world-class ghouls who commit terrible deeds; I’m talking about the more day-to-day, evil spirits that seem to lurk around every corner. When you think about it, even the tiniest things these days can take on an ominous, orange and black glow. Consider these examples:

  • United Press International reported this week: “An international organization of maritime security companies says the music of Britney Spears has proven effective in warding off Somali pirates.” Apparently, when vessels under assault blast pop hits like “Oops! … I Did It Again” and “… Baby One More Time,” it sends bloodthirsty brigands fleeing across the waves. Hmm, now let me think about this. It’s not the pirates I’m focused on here—they’re scary, but been there, done that. It’s the music that’s worrying me. This means that music that terrifies heavily armed monsters is playing all around me all the time every day—in the supermarket, down the street, in my house—and I don’t even blink? What does that make me? Cool, toss me another candy corn.
  • Here’s something ghoulish: WKBT-TV of La Crosse, Wisconsin, reported this week that a sixth grader named David Pehl received a Green Bay Packers jersey for Christmas a few years ago and has worn it for 1,034 consecutive days without a break. I bet there are new shades of green growing on that jersey by now, and I wouldn’t want to encounter the aroma of that kid in a dark alley.
  • Speaking of spooky encounters, competitive eating champion Joey Chestnut set a new world record this week by eating 121 Twinkies in six minutes. Chestnut’s closest competitor, Matt “Megatoad” Stonie, polished off 111 Twinkies. So here’s my quandary: What happens if I meet Joey and Matt coming down a dark street one evening and they get the idea that I have a cream filling?


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