It's time to get back to work after a somewhat late Labor Day. With summer unofficially over, many folks have begun taking a closer look at the markets again. In case you haven't tuned in yet, though, let's revisit seven events that thumped the financial world last week.
1. Black gold . Texas tea
What happened? After years of fruitless deepwater testing in the Gulf of Mexico, industry stalwart Chevron
What does it mean for your portfolio? Consumers are jumping for joy. But should they? A domestic surge in production is great, though we're still needy when it comes to foreign crude -- 66% of our consumed oil comes from foreign sources. On the other hand, chemical manufacturers such as Dow
2. In case you didn't notice, we're in a slump
What happened? Recent data from the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight (link opens a PDF) confirms the widely held belief that the housing market is slumping. Released on Sept. 5, the report finds that the increase in the quarterly rate of appreciation is the smallest since 1975 -- a pitiful gain of only 1.17%!
What does it mean for your portfolio? We may not be seeing an actual decline in the value of American homes yet, but the threat still looms. Everyone can at least agree that we are now in the middle of a major correction in the housing market. Homebuilders such as Pulte Homes and Centex will probably continue their six-month slide. Will they bottom out? Hey, we can't call tops or bottoms, but they may become an interesting value play.
3. Nasdaq likes its options
What happened? On Sept. 7, representatives at Nasdaq announced plans to introduce a market specializing in equity and index options. It will roll out approximately one year from now.
What does it mean for your portfolio? In addition to offering investors more options, literally, this move should provide some interesting competition for the likes of the International Securities Exchange and the NYSE Group's
4. DivX goes legit
What happened? DivX, an Internet company that is emerging out of a highly questionable past, has decided to go public as of Sept. 18 and work with mainstream software manufacturers.
What does it mean for your portfolio? If you haven't heard of DivX, you're probably an upstanding citizen who hasn't been illegally downloading movies. Kudos to you. However, DivX has pioneered decompression technology, which allows computer files -- especially large ones, like movies -- to be squeezed down, easily transported over the Net, and then reopened and viewed by the end user. This might not be an Earth-shattering transition, but watch to see how it might affect Netflix (Nasdaq; NFLX). DivX has mastered the ability to allow individuals to download and watch movies over the computer, and if it effectively partners with software and movie producers, it might pose a danger to Netflix's revenue stream.
5. Still suffering five years later?
What happened? With the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks upon us, a recent New York Times/CBS news poll wanted to gauge Americans' mood. The results showed that we have returned to a sense of normality following the devastation of the World Trade Center. The poll suggests that among those outside New York City, 22% of people are very concerned about a terrorist attack, down from 39% five years ago. Conversely, 39% feel less safe than they did five years ago, as opposed to 14% who feel safer.
What does it mean for your portfolio? Americans are not letting concerns over terrorism stop them from vacationing. The Times has reported that Americans are traveling to Europe at numbers not seen since 2000 -- the recent tally standing at 13.12 million. Look to Air France-KLM -- up 44% since June 13 -- and other flyers to continue to profit nicely during this resurgence of air travel, despite concerns over terrorism.
6. Shorter lines at the unemployment office, for now
What happened? The feds have reported that unemployment is down to a seven-week low. But when you weigh that news against a 5% year-over-year increase in unit labor costs for this quarter and a slowing economy, it doesn't sound as good.
What does it mean for your portfolio? We can probably anticipate some more layoffs at companies whose payroll expenses exceed available resources -- much like the downsizing we saw at Intel
7. Microsoft plays cat-and-mouse with the EU
What happened? Software megagiant Microsoft
What does it mean for your portfolio? Either way, the new Vista system will replace Windows XP across the board and should provide Microsoft a boost to its sagging profit margins. This tussle with the EU is nothing new and probably will be resolved before it harms Microsoft to any great extent. But there's a clear pattern of mistrust and mutual dislike evident between European litigators and the Redmond, Wash., company. Clearly, the EU has no intention of letting Microsoft steamroll its way across the European corporate software industry.
For more timely guidance on managing your portfolio, why not try a free test-drive of one of our investing newsletters? You can look any of them over for 30 days, and there's no obligation to subscribe.
Fool contributor Nick Kapur does not own shares of any stocks mentioned above, and he promises that he does not download movies illegally. Intel and Microsoft are Motley Fool Inside Value recommendations. Netflix is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.