Major benchmarks got off to a slow start on Monday morning, as investors remained worried about the rising tensions between the U.S. and Iran. Having ignored geopolitical risk for a long time, market participants have now shifted their focus to assessing military threats even as they continue to keep trade and broader economic concerns in the back of their minds. Yet investors remained resilient, and as of 11 a.m. EST, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) had recovered from triple-digit losses to be down 75 points to 28,559. The S&P 500 (SNPINDEX:^GSPC) lost a point to 3,234, and the Nasdaq Composite (NASDAQINDEX:^IXIC) managed to gain 12 points to 9,033.
The rise in military tensions helped the gold market, and that spurred greater interest in Newmont Goldcorp (NYSE:NEM), which gave shareholders a nice reward. Meanwhile, Xerox Holdings (NYSE:XRX) said that it has managed to come up with financing sources for its ambitious takeover bid for HP (NYSE:HPQ), turning attention back to a merger that many had dismissed as unlikely.
Newmont shines up its dividend
Shares of Newmont Goldcorp were up almost 1% after the gold mining giant said it would "significantly increase" its quarterly dividend. The move came in response to favorable developments in the gold market, which is a common safe-haven play for investors fleeing the broader stock market.
Newmont said that it would deliver a whopping 79% boost to its quarterly dividend, raising it to $0.25 per share. The resulting $1 per share in annual payouts would give the gold miner a dividend yield of about 2.3%, or about a full percentage point higher than its current yield. Newmont has paid $0.14 per share over the past several quarters.
Investors had already been pleased with the way Newmont has been performing fundamentally. Not only have gold prices been moving higher, but the company has also worked hard to divest itself of non-core assets to help it drill down more squarely on its best business opportunities. Streamlining its mining assets has given Newmont a better chance of taking full advantage of higher prices in the long run.
If global conflict rises, then the recent push for gold prices toward $1,600 per ounce could be just the beginning of a new move upward for the yellow metal. Strong gold would lift Newmont further, and that in turn could deliver still higher dividends in the future.
Xerox shows HP the money
Meanwhile, shares of Xerox were down almost 1%. The company known for its copiers moved forward on a previously proposed deal to acquire the much larger HP, completing a key step toward demonstrating that it's serious about its proposal.
Xerox announced that it had secured $24 billion in binding financing commitments to complete the HP acquisition, sending a letter to leaders at HP about the news. In the letter, Xerox CEO John Visentin acknowledged that some of HP's skepticism about the previously proposed buyout was that Xerox might not be able to persuade lenders to come up with the capital necessary to complete the deal. The commitments from global banks Citigroup, Mizuho, and Bank of America were intended to counter that hesitation.
Visentin also said that he's willing to meet with HP to discuss the matter further. Yet HP investors don't seem all that excited about the news, with the stock only up about 1% Monday morning.
At this point, the primary question will be whether HP does anything to acknowledge the letter other than repeating its previous statement that the proposed acquisition price was too low. Given the struggles that tech hardware companies have had, a combination might still be the best choice for HP -- especially now that it seems that Xerox would be able to get a deal done.