Starbucks Loses Billions in Arbitration and Potbelly Jumps After Hours

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 Federal Reserve was back in focus today as the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) fell slightly, ending down 32 points, or 0.2%, as some Fed regional presidents said the anticipated taper could begin as soon as its next meeting, on Dec. 17-18. Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart said a taper "could very well take place" in December, though he was careful to state that any move would not be drastic, adding, "Monetary policy overall should remain very accommodative for quite some time." Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher echoed Lockhart's remarks, saying, "I understand there's sensitivity, but markets should also bear in mind that this program cannot go on forever." The Fed's $85 billion monthly bond-buying program has been a principal force behind the market's gains this year as it has kept interest rates, making stocks more appealing and encouraging borrowing to stimulate the economy.

After hours today, Starbucks (NASDAQ: SBUX  ) revealed that it would have to pay Kraft, a former subsidiary of Mondelez (NASDAQ: MDLZ  ) , $2.76 billion to resolve a dispute over Starbucks' termination of an agreement between the two brands that had Kraft selling Starbucks' packaged coffee in grocery stores. As a result, Starbucks shares were off 1.5% after hours, while Mondelez, which will receive the financial award, was up 3.3%. Starbucks CFO Troy Alstead said in response to the decision, "We are pleased the arbitration has ended; however, we strongly disagree with the arbitrator's conclusion," adding that terminating the agreement with Starbucks was "the right decision" for the coffee purveyor. Considering the coffee chain's market cap at $60 billion, the $2.76 billion expense, equal to 4.6% of its market value, could take a bigger bite out of shares tomorrow.

Elsewhere, Potbelly (NASDAQ: PBPB  ) shares shot up 13% after hours, following a 4% gain in regular trading on a strong earnings report, its first as a publicly traded company. The sandwich chain beat earnings estimates, with a $0.15-per-share profit against expectations of $0.09, while revenues increased 11.6% to $78 million, slightly ahead of the consensus at $77.88 million. Same-store sales growth was just 2.5%, and the company sees low-single-digit comps for the full year. While the comparable sales figure may be scary, this is largely an expansion play as Potbelly plans to increase its store base by about 19% this year. Still, with modest revenue growth and a high valuation, its share price may need to wait for profits to catch up.

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