Although the real estate market continues to show signs of a robust comeback, new data revealing slightly more housing starts in December than expected failed to lift markets. A housing start is logged on the day construction begins on a new, primarily residential, property. U.S. builders broke ground at the rate of about 1 million units a year in December, which was a lower level than the month before, but a 1.6% increase from December 2012. Earnings season held more sway over the stock market today, though results failed to dazzle Wall Street and the S&P 500 Index (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC ) fell seven points, or 0.4%, to end at 1,838.
Far from feeling dazzled, Best Buy (NYSE: BBY ) shareholders probably feel shock and profound disappointment after a lackluster holiday performance sent the stock plummeting. After shedding nearly 30% yesterday, Best Buy stock fell another 9% Friday, giving shareholders a long weekend to reflect on their staggering losses. The electronics retailer's inability to compete with low-overhead online rivals looks to be a serious long-term issue as reflected by Best Buy's 0.9% same-store sales decline during the holiday period.
Micron Technology (NASDAQ: MU ) slipped 3.2% today, although its slump was mostly due to being in the same line of business as rival Intel, which saw shares fall 2.6% today after a poor earnings report. Intel also said it would eliminate about 5% of its global workforce by the end of the year in an effort to save money and reduce inefficiencies. Wall Street may, however, be drawing inferences too readily in this case; Micron already reported results for the quarter ending in late November, and sales surged more than 120% from the year before. Both companies are fighting desperately for market share in the mobile segment as the age of the PC slowly wanes.
Finally, shares of United States Steel (NYSE: X ) shed 3.2%, and for a strange reason. Simply put, domestic steel producers have been too successful recently, and now face heightened expectations that will be tougher to live up to. Citigroup sees the stock's six-month run-up as a risky sign to investors, especially considering the global economics at play. American steel sells for substantial premiums to steel from other major global markets, a dynamic the Wall Street investment bank sees as unsustainable. On top of that, Ford's bold decision to produce a lighter F150 by using aluminum parts in lieu of steel doesn't bode well for future demand from the auto industry.