A potential ceasefire between Russia and Ukraine lifted stocks in the morning, but the major indexes pared their gains in afternoon trading to close mixed. The Nasdaq ended in the red, partly due to a sharp drop in Apple’s shares on security concerns about the company’s iCloud storage service.
The Dow rose 10 points, with 20 of its 30 components gaining ground; the S&P 500 Index dropped 1; and the Nasdaq fell 25. Decliners led advancers by seven to six on the NYSE and seven to four on the Nasdaq. The prices of Treasuries strengthened. Gold futures advanced $5.30 to close at $1,270.30 an ounce, and the price of crude oil jumped $2.66 to settle at $95.54 a barrel.
In Other Business News:
- The U.S. economy continued its modest expansion through August, according to the Federal Reserve’s Beige Book, an anecdotal summary of economic conditions across the Fed’s 12 districts. Wages and employment grew modestly, with employers beginning to have difficulty staffing skilled positions. The housing market, meanwhile, showed signs of stalling, with only half the districts reporting positive or at least stable conditions.
- A record number of aircraft orders, particularly for Boeing’s aircraft, pushed factory orders 10.5% higher in July, according to the Commerce Department. Factory orders outside of transportation declined 0.8% for the month. However, one positive is that unfilled orders jumped 5.4% while inventories only rose 0.1%, indicating the potential need for inventory building.
- Auto sales were mixed in August, with overall gains coming from truck sales and car sales slipping. General Motors posted a 1.2% decline, while sales at Chrysler soared 20%. Ford’s sales were essentially flat at 0.4%, Jeep’s jumped 49% to set an August record for the company, and Volkswagen’s sank 13%.
- Home Depot and law enforcement agencies are investigating whether the home improvement retailer’s online payment systems had been breached, potentially giving hackers access to credit and debit cards used by shoppers. As of today, Home Depot couldn’t say for certain whether a breach had occurred, but it took steps similar to those Target took when it suffered a data breach last year, including notifying customers to check their credit reports and offering credit monitoring services in case a breach is confirmed. Its shares (HD) fell 2.36%.
- Apple’s shares (AAPL) fell 4.22%, partly on concerns about the hacked celebrity photos that had been stored on Apple’s iCloud storage system. The incidents raised concerns about the service a week ahead of the company’s big product launch, when it’s expected to unveil new iPhones and a smartwatch.
- Halliburton will pay $1.1 billion to Gulf of Mexico–area businesses and local governments as part of a settlement related to its part in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010. Halliburton didn’t admit fault in the disaster, which also involved BP and Transocean. Its shares (HAL) rose 0.13%.
Today in food: Denny’s arrives in Manhattan, butter goes missing, and France decides there are certain times one can’t drink wine.
- Denny’s has finally broken into Manhattan. And as with everything in Manhattan, it had to at least offer a more glitzy option for its standard breakfast fare of eggs and bacon. Sticking with its Grand Slam theme, the Manhattan Denny’s is now offering the Grand Cru Slam, which is exactly like the Grand Slams found elsewhere, with eggs, toast, and hash browns, except this version costs $300 and comes with a bottle of Dom Perignon. So if you’re used to spending $300 on dinner but also like to feel full, Manhattan’s Denny’s is the place to eat. Alternatively, I will gladly order everything off of McDonald’s dollar menu and hand it to you with a six pack of Miller Lite for only $150.
- Actually, $300 is about what all those calories should cost, particularly if the price of butter keeps jumping. According to Quartz, butter storage across the nation is 42% lower than last year at this time due to lower amounts of milk produced earlier this year and a lower fat content of that milk. Partly due to the butter shortage, butter futures hit a record high last week of $2.55 a pound. This is probably a bad time to institute my idea of a “Butter September” to encourage people to eat more butter, as if such encouragement is needed. Regardless, it’s time to start hoarding butter and then wait for the big bake sales a few months from now as everyone realizes that a bunch of butter is about to go bad in the nation’s collective fridges.
- And speaking of going light on indulgences, employers in France, home of the 35-hour workweek, are finally allowed to ban wine in the workplace. Prior to a ruling by the French Labor Ministry earlier this summer, French workplaces had been required to allow employees to drink certain alcoholic beverages at work, such as wine, beer, and cider, on the apparent theory that “This is France.” The Labor Ministry, however, stated that alcohol in the workplace can “threaten the security and the physical and mental well-being of workers,” and thus workplaces are now allowed to ban alcohol. Here’s one solution to this unconscionable attack on the French way of life: Restrict the workweek even further to five days a week from 10 a.m. to noon, when people probably wouldn’t be drinking wine anyway.