The markets could really use an early Christmas from Washington with the only desired gift being a resolution to the 'Fiscal Cliff'. The issue has begun to take on a life of its own, with our local news casts even taking their turn to explain the situation to viewers. We received a bit of good news out of China which shows that economic growth may be ticking higher there, but it seems that the lower classes are not yet feeling the gain as you will read later on in this article. We would continue to deploy capital to stocks with their own story while steering clear of those names which depend upon a general market rally. That has been the only thing that has worked over the last month or so, and it shall continue that way until normalcy returns to the market.
We have economic news due out today and it is as follows:
ISM Index- 51.2
Construction Spending - 0.4%
Auto Sales - N/A
Truck Sales - N/A
Asian markets finished mixed today:
All Ordinaries - up 0.49%
Shanghai Composite - down 1.03%
Nikkei 225 - up 0.13%
NZSE 50 - down 0.02%
Seoul Composite - up 0.37%
In Europe markets are mostly higher this morning:
CAC 40 - down 0.95%
DAX - up 0.40%
FTSE 100 - up 0.24%
OSE - down 0.14%
We finally received the news from VeriSign (VRSN) regarding the finalization of their contract to run the .com registry which had been held up as it was reviewed by the Justice Department. Shares finished lower on the news by $5.19 (13.19%) to close at $34.15/share on the announcement as the company's new contract does not allow it price increases except in the situation where the company may need to offset higher costs related security and similar issues. The company's CEO stressed that they were still a growth company, even with their inability to raise prices, due to other segments at the company and the growth in domains being registered. It is good news that the company did not lose the business altogether, but certainly this was not the news investors wanted to hear.
It seems that all the speculation that Groupon (GRPN) would replace their Chief Executive Officer Andrew Mason was misguided. The board made no move to dismiss the CEO and it now appears he is in for the long haul. Shares rose most of the week on the speculation that the company would find new leadership, however on Friday they closed lower by $0.395 (8.70%) and closing at $4.145/share. The business is getting tougher and with all of the competition the industry has seen margins decrease. It will be interesting to see what moves are made in the next few months to drive growth and appease investors who have obviously grown anxious.
It was a blast from the past on Friday as we saw Tellabs (TLAB) rising sharply higher on our screen and the news was quite interesting. First off, the company has a new CEO who will start immediately. Secondly, Tellabs will pay a special $1/share dividend to shareholders on December 21, 2012. This does not change the issues the company faces as it moves to shift from older telecom gear towards wireless gear, but it does reward shareholders with some instant cash on top of the already announced share buybacks. Shares finished higher by $0.61 (20.68%) to close at $3.56/share on volume of 21.1 million shares on the news.
YUM! Brands (YUM) saw shares get taken down to $67.08/share after having fallen by $7.39/share during Friday's session. Volume was well above normal at 18.7 million shares as investors reacted to news that the company expected sales in Chinese stores open at least a year to fall in the fourth quarter rather than to be flat to higher by the low single digits, as the company had previously guided. This is the latest news to confirm that China is indeed undergoing a slowing of economic activity. Yum had been trading just off of their 52-week highs, and after the latest news investors have to ask themselves whether this is merely a hiccup or whether the overall growth story has changed with China's slowing growth. As one who has been bullish on Yum for some time now, we would advise to take profits. For those wanting to keep exposure to this story, simply let the profits in the trade run.
Speaking of blasts from the past, we noticed Peregrine Pharmaceuticals (PPHM) rallying last week and on Friday as well with shares closing at $1.50/share after rising $0.34 (29.31%). This was not a fake rally on low volume as volume did come in at 15.5 million. We are not buyers here, and recommend that readers not venture back into this one however we are watchers as the move happened on absolutely no news. It will be interesting to see if a fund was buying or if some news comes out sometime this week.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.