Today is a bit of a lull in the middle of earnings season, and shares of major U.S. indexes are rising slightly before the earnings fireworks begin tonight. At 3:15 p.m. EDT the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI ) was up 0.26%, while the S&P 500 (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC ) had gained 0.21%.
The biggest economic news was a retail sales report that showed a 0.4% rise in sales during June. That was lower than economists' 0.9% expectations, and when you exclude auto sales, the result was flat, which may be an indicator that GDP growth will not be strong in the second quarter. Consumers account for about 70% of U.S. economic activity, so if they aren't increasing spending, the whole economy suffers.
The latest reports have investigators focusing on a locator transmitter, but it has to be worrisome to all Boeing investors that fires keep occurring on the company's new flagship aircraft. So far, the company doesn't know what the impact will be, and with the stock trading near a 52-week high, I would remain wary of it. Headlines about fires aboard aircraft are never good, and they seem to be a recurring theme for Boeing.
Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT ) is the other big gainer today, up 1.3%. The company announced a $150 price cut for the Surface RT, its first foray into tablets. According to IDC, Microsoft claims just 2% of the tablet market, and only about 260,000 Surface RTs have been sold.
The tech giant is in the midst of a reorganization that is supposed to focus the company on quick software changes and more hardware design. Initial efforts to get into hardware haven't been successful, and one of the challenges has been pricing. This brings the Surface RT to a more attractive level, but without improvements that make it more appealing than the iPad, I don't think it will boost sales.
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