Dow Gets a Lift From M&A Talk

Stocks rise as corporate activity shows renewed life in markets.

John Divine
John Divine
Feb 19, 2013 at 6:00PM

A flurry of completed and rumored big-time equity deals alike have dominated financial headlines for weeks now, and today saw more of the same. The result was continued gains in the Dow Jones Industrial Average's (DJINDICES:^DJI), which closed above the 14,000 level, ending 53 points, or 0.39%, higher, to close at 14,035.

Closing at a 52-week high, Cisco Systems (NASDAQ:CSCO) was the Dow's top gainer today, adding 2.2%. With other high-profile tech companies like Google also hitting highs, nearly all areas of the market traded bullishly, as investors saw a potential merger between OfficeMax and Office Depot as a positive sign for the direction of corporate America. (Unlike any of the aforementioned companies, though, Cisco pays a handsome dividend higher than 2.5%.)

Alcoa (NYSE:AA) was on the opposite side of things today, losing 2.8% as metal prices declined. It's not unusual for shares in the aluminum producer to post exaggerated swings; its 1.87 beta indicates that the stock is 87% more volatile than the wider market. Apart from the general slide in metals prices today, the decline may have been amplified by the four-day winning streak last week, prompting some investors to take profits Tuesday.

Herbalife (NYSE:HLF), the nutritional-supplement company whose shares are at the heart of a recent public game of chicken between rival financiers Carl Icahn and Bill Ackman, reported quarterly results today. Before announcing, the stock bounced 2.6% during normal trading hours. The better-than-expected results in the quarter, combined with raised guidance for both 2013 income and revenue, have Icahn's bullish 13% stake in the company looking like a good idea, for the moment. 

Finally, some odd news from Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) today: Reports surfaced that Apple was the victim of a complex hacking scheme that compromised several employees' computers. What's bizarre is that the hackers are reportedly the same culprits behind Facebook's recent security breach. Even more peculiar is that Apple's stock was barely affected today, perhaps implying that shares are close to a floor for the time being.