Talk on Wall Street today centered on last night's State of the Union address, especially after an enterprising proposal by President Obama, paving the way for free trade with the European Union, was echoed by the president of the European Commission. Though the details will probably take several years to iron out, an agreement would be the largest trade deal ever reached and could boost annual GDP by as much as 0.5%. Even so, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) fell slightly, ending down 35 points, or 0.26%, to close at 13,982.
General Electric (NYSE:GE) was the all-star of the blue-chip index Wednesday, adding 3.6% after cable behemoth Comcast agreed to buy GE's 49% stake in NBCUniversal for $16.7 billion. This deal gives Comcast 100% ownership of NBCUniversal, 51% of which was sold to Comcast in 2009 for $13.8 billion, when GE found itself in tougher times financially.
Fast-food icon McDonald's (NYSE:MCD), on the other hand, was the Dow's worst performer, falling 1.2% as anxiety surrounds the state of American consumer spending, which barely rose last month. Retail and food services spending rose a meager 0.1% in January, which, despite the international scope of the Golden Arches, doesn't bode well for Mickey D's, as the European economy is dealing with serious macro problems of its own.
Another decliner in the food industry, Whole Foods Market (NASDAQ:WFM), despite adding about 0.8% today, fell steeply in after-hours trading after an unimpressive quarterly report. If McDonald's investors are worried about anemic consumer spending, it makes sense that the upscale Whole Foods would tumble as much as 6% after hours -- especially after sales didn't meet analyst expectations. At least something related to Whole Foods is looking cheaper!
One stock that rose on Wednesday almost entirely because of yesterday's State of the Union address was 3-D printing company 3D Systems (NYSE:DDD). Surging 4%, shares in the innovative company jumped after Obama painted 3-D printing as a majestic technology of the future that's bringing jobs to America.