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After being shut for two days due to Hurricane Sandy, the markets were back open today with an active trading session, as investors reacted to the effects of the disaster and other news from earlier in the week. Estimates of the total damage from the storm are around $50 billion, and gasoline futures soared, as some refineries in the Northeast are still shut down.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI ) fluctuated back and forth during the day, and finished down 0.08%, or 11 points. Despite the apparently flat trading in the index, there were a number of strong movers in the index.
Not surprisingly, Home Depot (NYSE: HD ) led the gainers, moving up 2.2%, as demand for home-improvement supplies should get a boost from the destruction wrought by Sandy. The big-box retailer opened nearly 5% higher, but came down over the course of the day, indicating that enthusiasm was perhaps overblown. Other construction-related stocks moved higher, as Lowe's gained 3.3%, and Owens Corning moved up 6.8%.
On the other side of the ledger, the market seemed to disapprove of Disney's (NYSE: DIS ) decision to buy Lucasfilm, the owner of the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises, for $4 billion, as shares of the media titan finished down 1.9%.That expenditure is about 4.5% of Disney's market cap, and mirrors past decisions to acquire new content and characters as seen in its acquisition of Marvel. Disney has said it plans to release a Star Wars 7 movie in 2015.
Another big loser on the day was Pfizer (NYSE: PFE ) . Investors are apparently nervous about the drug maker's earnings report tomorrow, sending its shares down 2.2%. For the last time this quarter, Pfizer will have to absorb the year-over-year loss of its Lipitor patent, and analysts see EPS falling to $0. 53 from $0.62, despite an aggressive share buyback plan. Research and development costs have also been sharply curtailed, and the Viagra maker is now focused on more lucrative products, many of which are in oncology and immunology.
Looking ahead to the rest of the week, there's bound to be plenty of action, with the jobs report coming up Friday, and strong increase in October auto sales making news after hours. Of course, there's also the run-up to the election.
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