U.S. stocks were little changed, following the first weekly decline in about two months for benchmark indexes, as investors awaited indications on whether the Federal Reserve will provide further stimulus measures.
Commodity and financial shares in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index fell, while technology companies gained. Apple Inc. (AAPL:US), the world’s most valuable company, climbed 2.2 percent after a jury found Samsung Electronics Co. infringed six of seven patents for its mobile devices. Google Inc. (GOOG:US), which offers the Android mobile software, declined 1.6 percent. Best Buy Co. jumped 6.5 percent on an agreement that will allow founder Richard Schulze to conduct due diligence in his effort to acquire the retailer.
The S&P 500 declined less than 0.1 percent to 1,410.70 at 10:31 a.m. New York time. The benchmark gauge dropped 0.5 percent last week. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 29.19 points, or 0.2 percent, to 13,128.78 today. The Nasdaq-100 Index gained 0.2 percent to 2,784.31. Trading in S&P 500 companies was down 24 percent from the 30-day average at this time of day.
“There’s no great conviction in either direction,” said Richard Sichel, who oversees $1.6 billion as chief investment officer at Philadelphia Trust Co. He spoke in a phone interview. “There are a couple of bright spots, such as Apple. People are looking ahead for Fed signals. I believe Bernanke’s speech will probably be more of the same. It’s more likely that it will be a continuation of what we’ve been hearing and less of an event.”
The S&P 500 has rallied 2.2 percent in August and is on pace for its third straight monthly gain. It snapped a six-week advance on Aug. 24 amid concern European leaders may fail to tame the region’s debt crisis and as investors speculated whether central banks will provide further economic stimulus.
Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke -- returning this week to the scene of a 2010 speech that foreshadowed a second round of quantitative easing -- may disappoint investors looking for him to signal new stimulus. Bernanke probably won’t use his Aug. 31 speech at the Fed’s annual symposium in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, to suggest a third round of bond buying is at hand, according to economists surveyed by Bloomberg.
Apple gained 2.2 percent to $677.73. Victories in patent disputes over phones using Google’s Android may extend, rather than end, the litigation that’s lasted more than two years and spanned four continents. The jury verdict won Aug. 24 against Samsung came shortly after a trade agency in Washington cleared Apple of some claims by Google’s Motorola Mobility unit that could have led to a U.S. ban on the iPhone and iPad.
Together, the decisions embolden Apple to continue the campaign envisioned by its late co-founder, Steve Jobs, to prove phones running on Android copied the iPhone’s features and designs. Apple won’t stop unless there’s a decisive blow against it, and Samsung, with its reputation at stake, also has little incentive to settle, said Tom Scott, a patent lawyer at Goodwin Procter LLP.
“Most commercial disputes are on the merits of the case,” said Scott, chairman of the firm’s intellectual property group in Washington. “This is different. It’s a war. It’s an economic war.”
Google dropped 1.6 percent to $667.71.
Best Buy added 6.5 percent to $18.44. Schulze can bring a fully financed proposal to the company within 60 days after the diligence period starts, and if that offer is rejected, he must wait until January 2013 to pursue an acquisition through other means, the company said today in a statement.
Dollar Thrifty Automotive Group Inc. (DTG:US) rallied 7.4 percent to $86.95. Hertz Global Holdings Inc. (HTZ:US) struck a deal to buy the company for about $2.6 billion in cash and secure its place as the No. 2 player in the U.S. market. Hertz jumped 13 percent to $14.87.
Hudson City Bancorp soared 16 percent to $7.49. M&T Bank Corp. (MTB:US), which counts Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. among its largest investors, agreed to buy the bank to expand in New Jersey in a deal valued at about $3.7 billion. Under terms of the agreement, each Hudson City shareholder will receive 0.08403 of an M&T share in the form of either M&T stock or cash.
Kenexa Inc. jumped 42 percent to $45.86. International Business Machines Corp. (IBM:US) will spend about $1.3 billion for the maker of Web-based human-resources and recruiting services, part of its effort to reach $16 billion in annual analytics revenue. IBM slipped 0.3 percent to $197.14.
Tiffany & Co. (TIF:US) climbed 6.3 percent to $62.19. The world’s second-largest luxury jewelry retailer reported a drop in worldwide comparable-store sales that was smaller than some analysts projected.
American stocks are dominating global equities by the most in a decade, taking a majority of the spots in a ranking of the 20 biggest companies, after earnings rose faster than the rest of the world as the global economy rebounded.
Apple, International Business Machines Corp., Wells Fargo & Co. and four more U.S. companies joined the top 20 since stocks peaked in 2007, bringing the total to 14, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. They replaced Moscow-based Gazprom OAO, China Petroleum & Chemical Corp. in Beijing, Petroleo Brasileiro SA of Rio de Janeiro and six others from Europe and Asia. Of the nine added, only BHP Billiton Ltd. and Nestle SA (NESN) are based outside the U.S.
More U.S. corporations are represented than any time since 2003 after 10 quarters of economic expansion and profit growth lifted the S&P 500 109 percent since shares bottomed in March 2009. The shift reflects volatility in emerging markets and shows how innovation builds value in the U.S.
“The U.S. is just the best place on the planet to have a great idea and turn it into a big business,” according to Michael Shaoul, chairman of New York-based Marketfield Asset Management, which oversees $2.7 billion. “There’s another reason for this list to have shifted and that is the falling of prior darlings,” said Shaoul, whose fund beat 99 percent of competitors in the past year. “A lot of the ones which have fallen are energy and emerging-market related.”
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