Markets Look to the Automakers This Morning

After a relatively uneventful start to the week, and given that the market closes at 1 p.m. EDT in advance of Independence Day, it's likely we'll experience a boring, low-volume day for equity markets. Luckily for those of us who write for a living, there are still some interesting news items on tap for today. But before diving into today's news, let's take a look at how markets finished up yesterday.

Index

Gain/Loss

Gain/Loss %

Value

Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI  ) (8.7) (0.07%) 12,871
Nasdaq 16.2 0.55% 2,951
S&P 500 (INDEX: ^GSPC  ) 3.4 0.25% 1,365

One of the main news items today will be June vehicle sales. On an industrywide basis, sales are expected to rise to a 13.9 million annualized rate from 13.8 million in May. That's down from the first four months of 2012, when vehicle sales exceeded the 14 million mark, but it still amounts to a 21% annual increase following the shortages caused by the Japanese earthquake and tsunami. Domestic manufacturers reporting sales this morning include Ford (NYSE: F  ) and General Motors. According to Edmunds.com, Ford sales are expected to fall 6.4% sequentially to 202,000, while General Motors sales are expected to fall 5.4% to 234,000.

Fun with noncash charges
Smell something? That's the smell of burning cash. While Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) still generates plenty of it, it hasn't been the best steward of those shareholder dollars. Yesterday we learned that Mr. Softy is taking a $6.2 billion goodwill impairment charge in its online services division, with most of it related to the absurdly high-priced acquisition of aQuantive in 2007. Microsoft paid an 85% premium for the Internet marketing services firm in its effort to catch up with the likes of Google, which at the time had just acquired ad-serving company DoubleClick. However, Microsoft isn't the first to be burned by a "me, too" acquisition gone astray. In 2011, Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ  ) booked $1.7 billion in impairment and other charges related to its ill-advised 2010 acquisition of Palm.

Foolish bottom line
Maybe I'm being a bit too harsh on Microsoft and HP, but the fact remains that many large, transformative acquisitions never play out as intended. Sometimes, shareholders would be better served if that cash were simply returned to them through fat dividend checks. If that sounds like your cup of tea, check out our latest special free report: "Secure Your Future With 9 Rock-Solid Dividend Stocks." Claim your copy of this exclusive report, which outlines a batting lineup of solid dividend payers, by clicking here now!

The Motley Fool owns shares of Ford Motor, Microsoft, and Google. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Ford Motor, Google, Microsoft, and General Motors. Motley Fool newsletter services have also recommended creating a synthetic long position in Ford Motor and a bull call spread position in Microsoft. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.


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