Despite a disappointing revision to first-quarter GDP, stocks still managed to move higher today as a Supreme Court ruling gave a boost to the broadcasting industry. By the end of the day, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI ) finished up 49 points, or 0.3%, while the S&P 500 added 0.5%, and the Nasdaq improved 0.7%.
In its third and final estimate, the Commerce Department said GDP fell by 2.9% in the first three months of the year, much lower than its previous reading of a 1% drop. That figure was the sharpest contraction in five years, though the poor results were widely blamed by economists and businesses alike on unusually severe winter weather. While such a significant drop in GDP might normally scare away investors, data in the second quarter has been overwhelmingly positive as the economy has added more than 200,000 jobs in each of the past four months and manufacturing activity has expanded. Also today, durable-goods orders for May were reported down 1%, worse than the 0.6% gain expected, which could indicate weakness in the manufacturing sector.
In a key ruling today on the future of broadcast media, the Supreme Court decided 6-3 that Aereo, a start-up that makes mini-antennas that allow users to watch broadcast TV on Internet-connected devices, was operating illegally. The court saw Aereo as a peer of cable and satellite TV providers, which pay broadcasters to transmit their programming. As a result, broadcaster stocks rose across the board, with CBS (NYSE: CBS ) up the most of the major networks, gaining 6%. The high court's ruling is likely to influence the future of not only TV, but also of cloud computing, which can sometimes straddle a similar line regarding copyright infringement.
Elsewhere, Barnes & Noble (NYSE: BKS ) gained 5% after the company said in its fourth-quarter report that it will spin off its Nook media unit. Analysts had many times said separating the e-book division from the core retail operations would unlock value for shareholders, and the bookseller had been considering the move for the past two years, as it was never able to make the Kindle-competitor profitable. The Nook unit will become its own publicly traded entity by March 30, and CEO Michael Huesby said the move gave the retailer the best chance to optimize shareholder value. In its earnings report, B&N said revenue increased 3.5% to $1.3 billion despite a 22% drop in Nook revenue, and its adjusted loss per share narrowed from $2.04 a share to $0.96 a share. For fiscal 2015, which ends next May, the retailer expects a low-single-digit decline in sales. Separating the Nook unit certainly gives Barnes & Noble a better shot at returning to full health, but the bookseller faces many challenges. With sales still expected to fall, it seems hard to justify a further increase in the share price right now.
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