Dow Jumps on Deals, but Syria Cools It Off

Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over daily movements, we do like to keep an eye on market changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.

The blue chips started off strong on bullish economic news and excitement over two major deals, but worries about Syria again sank markets by midday as Congressional leaders voiced support for a strike on the war-torn nation. In the end, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) finished up 24 points or 0.2%.

In the day's economic news, the Institute of Supply Management said its manufacturing index jumped to 55.7 in August, up from 55.4 in July and better than expectations of 53.6, indicating a strong and unexpected pickup in manufacturing activity. Elsewhere, a survey by CoreLogic showed home prices up 12.4% year-over-year in July, bucking a trend seen in other reports of weakening home sales. With treasury rates back near 3%, mortgage rates have gone up as well, putting pressure on the housing recovery.

As expected, Verizon Communications (NYSE: VZ  ) reached an agreement to buy out Vodafone's 45% stake in their Verizon Wireless joint venture for $130 billion. The price was at the high end of the previously reported range of $100 billion to $130 billion, and Verizon fell 2.9% after gaining 2.7% on the day last week when the deal was reported to be in the works. Still, the buyout should be a long-term positive for Verizon as it will gain full access to the $21.8 wireless operating income stream, and grow its arsenal to fight increasing competition in the industry. The deal will be financed with cash and debt, and Verizon will soon begin its "road show" to raise money from major debt investors.

In the day's other major deal, Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT  ) acquired Nokia's core handset division for $7.2 billion, sending Microsoft shares down 4.6%, but Nokia shares jumped 31%. Microsoft has struggled to make headway in the smartphone industry, and purchasing the main handset-maker of Windows Phones gives it control of both hardware and software segments of the phone. Investors, however, seemed to pooh-pooh the deal as Nokia is now regarded as a cash-bleeding dinosaur in the industry it once dominated, losing more than $4 billion last year. The move seems to fit with outgoing CEO Steve Ballmer's aspirations to transform the company into a gadget-and-services provider rather than a software maker. Microsoft's previous acquisitions have been questionable at best as it took a $6.3 billion writedown for essentially all of its 2007 aQuantive acquisition, and the value added from its $8 billion 2011 purchase of Skype remains unclear.

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