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And September opens with a thud. A third straight monthly manufacturing contraction awakened market bears and wreaked havoc on stocks. However, a late-day rally helped pare losses on the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI ) , which closed down 55 points, or 0.4%, and the S&P 500 finished with a 0.1% decline. The Nasdaq managed to sneak into positive territory with a 0.3% gain. With the Democratic Convention, expect these poor manufacturing numbers along with new unemployment data toward the end of the week to dominate the coverage.
The Dow was not without winners, as both Verizon (NYSE: VZ ) and Wal-Mart closed up 1.8% and 1.3%, respectively. In Verizon's case the official announcement of Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL ) iPhone 5 press conference in eight days has gotten investors excited that the redesigned iPhone will be a huge boost for the telecom. However, expect temporary compressed margins as Verizon subsidizes the smartphone to lock customers into contracts. So while Apple will enjoy the immediate payoff of launching their incredibly anticipated product, Verizon may suffer a little short term-pain for long-term gain.
Wal-Mart is trying to aggressively court holiday shoppers by lowering fees for layaway accounts. (And yes, even though Labor Day just ended, we are already talking about December holidays.) With the consumer still hurting, lowering the cost of entry to a $5 fee from $15 creates a smaller hurdle and could potentially boost sales. I'm not sure how much of a barrier $10 was, but every little bit helps in the crucial fourth quarter.
Off the Dow, the big news of the day came from health care, where serial acquirer Valeant (NYSE: VRX ) announced plans to assimilate its newest target, Medicis (NYSE: MRX ) at a 39% premium. While unusual for most acquirers, Valeant was also up big today, 15%, showing investors' confidence in the company's ability to derive considerable synergy from the complementary acquisition. Investors of Valeant support the company's Borg-like tendencies and implicitly trust management's ability to determine prices for their many accretive targets.
Valeant has done well for its investors, but the biggest story continues to be Apple. With the next iPhone set to debut in just over a week, download our new premium Apple report. It will keep you up to date on the biggest company in the world, whether it is still a buy at these lofty levels, and what it has in store for investors and consumers. Get your copy.