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Stock Market News: Twitter, Elliott Get Hostile; GE's Welch Dies

By Dan Caplinger - Mar 2, 2020 at 10:55AM

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Major benchmarks finally managed a brief rebound.

The stock market managed to post a modest bounce from last week's coronavirus-driven downdraft, as investors finally appeared ready to consider buying beaten-down stocks at cheaper levels. Despite ongoing concerns about the spread of the novel coronavirus outbreak across the globe, some public health officials still were able to maintain a somewhat optimistic view on the disease. As of 11 a.m. EST, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (^DJI 2.68%) was up 396 points to 25,805. The S&P 500 (^GSPC 3.06%) rose 37 points to 2,991, and the Nasdaq Composite (^IXIC 3.34%) gained 99 points to 8,666.

In corporate news, activist investors at Elliott Management upped the stakes in their investment in social media giant Twitter (TWTR 1.89%). Meanwhile, General Electric (GE 4.70%) saw the passing of an icon, as former CEO Jack Welch passed away at the age of 84.

Is Elliott all atwitter?

Shares of Twitter rose 8% after reports surfaced that Paul Singer's Elliott Management hedge fund had taken a significant stake in the social media company. The $1 billion investment apparently has an ambitious goal in mind: to replace Jack Dorsey as Twitter's CEO.

Twitter's blue bird logo

Image source: Twitter.

Dorsey has been splitting his time between Twitter and payment processing network Square (SQ 5.54%), and it seems that Elliott doesn't find that to be an ideal arrangement. In order to achieve that goal, Elliott has reportedly nominated four directors to Twitter's board, which currently has eight members.

The hedge fund activist investors aren't the only ones unhappy with Dorsey's arrangement. Over the past five years, Twitter shares have gained just over 40%, compared to a more-than-520% return for Square over the same time frame. Critics of Dorsey believe that the CEO isn't spending enough time on the social media giant, allowing competitors to gain ground and missing out on opportunities for growth.

Social media has been a hit-or-miss industry among tech stocks, with the winners having fared far better than the also-rans. Elliott clearly believes Twitter should be among the better performers in the space, and it'll be interesting to see if it can convince enough shareholders that Dorsey has to go in order to achieve stronger returns for the stock.

The passing of a corporate legend

Meanwhile, shares of General Electric rose 1%. The death of former CEO Jack Welch arguably had little impact on the company's current operations, but his efforts played an important role in making GE what it is today.

Welch introduced a number of innovations for General Electric during his tenure as CEO, which began in the early 1980s. He sought to expand the conglomerate's reach well beyond its industrial roots, spurring investments in areas like television broadcasting and finance. He also introduced quality-control efforts that put new emphasis on product standards, and he was ruthless in pursuing corporate efficiency through cost-cutting and job-reduction plans.

As it turned out, General Electric reached its zenith during Welch's tenure, with the stock briefly becoming the most valuable in the entire market. Unfortunately, the conglomerate wasn't able to sustain its upward momentum after Welch's departure, with successive challenges leading to major setbacks during the financial crisis.

General Electric still hasn't quite found its way, with efforts to concentrate on its most promising businesses still requiring significant strategic moves. For many, the memory of Welch's success will be bittersweet unless GE can find a way to return to its former glory.

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Stocks Mentioned

General Electric Company Stock Quote
General Electric Company
GE
$67.08 (4.70%) $3.01
Twitter, Inc. Stock Quote
Twitter, Inc.
TWTR
$39.41 (1.89%) $0.73
Dow Jones Industrial Average (Price Return) Stock Quote
Dow Jones Industrial Average (Price Return)
^DJI
$31,500.68 (2.68%) $823.32
S&P 500 Index - Price Return (USD) Stock Quote
S&P 500 Index - Price Return (USD)
^GSPC
$3,911.74 (3.06%) $116.01
NASDAQ Composite Index (Price Return) Stock Quote
NASDAQ Composite Index (Price Return)
^IXIC
$11,607.62 (3.34%) $375.43
Block, Inc. Stock Quote
Block, Inc.
SQ
$71.00 (5.54%) $3.73

*Average returns of all recommendations since inception. Cost basis and return based on previous market day close.

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