As a winter storm pummeled Wall Street and the East Coast, stocks posted solid gains to push all three major indexes to new highs. The energy sector benefitted from rising oil prices, while the U.S. dollar and stocks were boosted by President Trump’s announcement that he would release his tax plan in the next few weeks.
The Dow jumped 115 points, with 26 of its 30 components gaining ground; the S&P 500 Index rose 13; and the Nasdaq gained 32. Advancers led decliners by nearly two to one on the NYSE and more than five to two on the Nasdaq. The prices of Treasuries weakened. Gold futures lost $2.70 to close at $1,236.80 an ounce, and the price of crude oil rose 66 cents to settle at $53 a barrel after a report showed an unexpected decline in gasoline supplies.
In earnings news:
- Weak results in developing countries and continued divestment of its bottling operations dragged The Coca-Cola Co.’s fourth-quarter profit down 56%. The beverage giant reported profit of $550 million on revenue of $9.41 billion, down 5.9%. North American results were better, with 8% revenue growth boosted by smaller packaging. Coca-Cola’s shares (KO) fell 1.86%.
- Despite a political season that placed tweets in the spotlight, Twitter Inc. reported disappointing user growth numbers in the fourth quarter, adding only 2 million new users from the third quarter for a total of 319 million. Revenue rose a modest 0.9% from the prior-year quarter to $717.2 million, missing expectations. Twitter’s quarterly loss widened from $90.2 million to $167.1 million. Its shares (TWTR) tumbled 12.37%.
In other business news:
- Initial claims for unemployment declined 12,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 234,000, according to the Labor Department, slightly above a multi-decade low. In November, claims dipped to 233,000, the lowest number in 43 years. Meanwhile, the streak of the number of weeks the gauge has been below 300,000 continued, hitting 101 weeks for the longest stretch since 1970.
- The NYSE ARCA Airline Index jumped 2.36% after President Trump said he would improve airline infrastructure and help U.S. airlines compete with foreign airlines, which he said received government subsidies, particularly several airlines in the Persian Gulf region.
The number of U.S. job openings is chugging along near its all-time high, currently around 5.5 million job openings at the end of December (by contrast, job openings totaled only about 2.2 million in July 2009 in the aftermath of the financial crisis). Jobless claims, meanwhile, are sinking to historic lows as well, with only 234,000 last week. This has all the makings of a tense showdown. Employers, accustomed to several years of a dismal job market, are still trying to ask clever job interview questions. The applicants, meanwhile, are emboldened, knowing the job market is improving. Overly clever questions might get met by overly clever responses.
To that end, employment and salary website Glassdoor.com compiled the most unique interview questions from 2016. Here’s what job seekers have to look forward to, should they deign to answer such questions and not respond to their interviewer with, “Hey, don’t you know it’s a job seekers’ market? Now, I’ve got a few questions for you…”
Some questions are obviously relevant to gauging an employee’s knowledge, like this physics-based question from spaceflight company SpaceX: “When a hot dog expands, in which direction does it split and why?” The only correct answer is an expression of disbelief that anyone could resist eating a hot dog long enough to discover the answer.
Web-marketing company HubSpot asks, “If I gave you $40,000 to start a business, what would you start?” It turns out—and I didn’t know this before this particular interview—that I’m an expert at getting people to give me $40,000 to start a business. So I’d like to explore starting a business where I regularly receive $40,000.
Delta Air Lines asks, “How many basketballs would fit in this room?” Interviewers typically like to see lots of aggression from their applicants, so the correct answer in this case is, “Depends. How many times do you want to get dunked on?”
And finally, Whole Foods (not the originator of this question) asks what’s become one of the most famous questions in internet history: “Would you rather fight a horse-sized duck or 100 duck-sized horses?” On Reddit, this question pops up in almost every “Ask Me Anything” feature. It’s almost become the internet’s version of “What’s the sound of one hand clapping?”—a koan for the modern age. Perhaps this is Whole Food’s way of figuring out if the job applicant spends too much time on the internet, so respondents should be wary about listing their top-ten favorite answers to this question. The true answer might be to nod sagely, laugh, and say, “Indeed.” Come to think of it, this might be the best go-to strategy for any question the applicant doesn’t want to answer.