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Hot Car Sales, Hotter Gambling Stocks, a Bad Education for U of Phoenix, and What Shook Markets Last Week

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Instead of grieving over your busted March Madness brackets (curse you, UConn), check out what pumped stocks to record highs during last week as the first quarter of 2014 came to an end -- until a mediocre jobs report Friday that sent the Dow down 160 points.

1. Stock market winner ...
This is the kind of news you can put your money on. It was a good week to be a gambling stock following a major announcement from the Chinese government about its debaucherous zone of betting better known as Macau. The semi-autonomous peninsula is home to China's growing betting industry and just announced that it's earned $12.6 billion in gambling revenue so far in just 2014 alone, a 20% jump from last year.

Macau isn't the only one to gain here -- U.S. gambling giants Las Vegas Sands (NYSE: LVS  ) and Wynn Resorts (NASDAQ: WYNN  ) popped on the news, as both own some hefty properties in the area. CEO Sheldon Adelson of LVS wasn't shy about the news, sending a written statement out after its release that his company enjoyed "record" gains in the region.

But the big change, whether you're on Wall Street or planning your bachelor party, is what this means for ol' Vegas. For LVS, its Macau resorts are already earnings more than their namesake properties back in the United States. Wynn's net revenue was also nearly three times as much in Macau as it was in Las Vegas during the final quarter of 2013. It's no wonder LVS is already up 1.5% year to date.
2. ... And stock market loser
We'd love to spare you all the "academic" analogies, but it was time-out time last week for Apollo Education Group (NASDAQ: APOL  ) . That name might not sound familiar to you, but it's the money behind the legendary online institution the University of Phoenix, whose television ads have blitzed your TV screen for the past decade, encouraging you to get a degree in psychology while in your pajamas.

Apollo had a tough week for a couple of key reasons. First, its earnings report, released earlier in the week, showed a 19% drop in revenues from the same period last year, down to $679.1 million. Behind that drop was a just as concerning number for investors -- a 17% decrease in enrollment at the University of Phoenix, as the company added only 32,000 students to its virtual platform.

As we mentioned, that wasn't all -- The "U" is under investigation. Apollo received a subpoena notice earlier in March regarding its business practices on the East Coast. A local inspector general in the region is looking into the financial aid and student retention polices at the University of Phoenix, and that's the kind of publicity that investors aren't too fond of.

3. U.S. car sales drove off the lot
U.S. car manufacturers report sales monthly, and March's figures looked as good as one of those cool concept cars at the New York auto show. General Motors' (NYSE: GM  ) sales rose 4% and Ford's (NYSE: F  ) truck sales gained 3.3% from last year, while Chrysler led with 13% sales growth in March. Overall, that's an improvement from February after (like most econ data that month) brutal weather discouraged consumers from leaving home to make non-essential purchases.

4. Janet Yellen speaks of stimulus
New Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen redeemed herself -- in a speech in Chicago, she reassured investors that since the economy still has a way to go before it's fully back on its feet (aka the unemployment rate falls a bit further), the Fed will keep using its quantitative easing stimulus policies. In early March, Yellen and the Fed scaled back its monthly bond purchases that keep interest rates low to boost the economy -- investors love econ-pumpin' stimulus juice and were hoping for hints of more stimulus to come.
MarketSnacks this week:
  • Monday: Consumer spending figures
  • Tuesday: National Federation of Independent Business' small-business index
  • Wednesday: Minutes from the Fed's last policy meeting
  • Thursday: The Treasury releases its budget
  • Friday: Reuters/University of Michigan consumer sentiment poll

MarketSnacks Fact of the Day: Brazil's World Cup stadium construction sites are "on track" to kill 600 workers per year.

As originally published on

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