U.S. stocks opened a little bit lower this morning, with the S&P 500 (SNPINDEX:^GSPC) and the narrower, price-weighted Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) down 0.18% and 0.29%, respectively, at 10:05 a.m. EDT. Still, both indexes are just off their all-time highs -- and no wonder, with investors pouring a record $40.3 billion into U.S. equity exchange-traded funds and mutual funds (with more than three-fourths of that going to the former), according to Trim Tabs Investment Research.
Finally, a Dell deal that will pass muster
Michael Dell and Silver Lake Partners cut another deal with Dell's board on Friday, and the evidence suggests it will be enough to take the company private. Actually, it looks like Michael Dell is doing the negotiating at this stage; he's certainly the only one coming up with the funds for a raised offer. Silver Lake has already made it clear that it's not interested in putting more money on the table.
Let's be clear, however: The increase is nominal -- an additional $0.10 per share for an offer price of $13.75 and a $0.13 special dividend, which ain't so special. Altogether, that amounts to a measly 1.5% increase. In exchange for this largesse, Michael Dell obtained a huge concession from the Dell board, which obviously can't wait to get this deal done: Abstention votes will not be counted when the new offer is put to shareholders (abstentions were estimated to represent a quarter of all shares in the previous round of voting).
You can never count out wily deal-making veteran Carl Icahn, who opposes the Dell/Silver Lake offer, but it now looks like this traveling circus will come to an end. The stock market, for one, thinks this is a done deal: Dell shares closed at $13.68 on Friday -- just $0.07 shy of the new offer price -- on more than four times their average daily volume.
Device war: Apple wins a battle, Microsoft takes another hit
The Obama administration vetoed a June ruling against Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) by the U.S. International Trade Office calling for a ban on older iPad and iPhone models for infringing a Samsung patent. If this morning's stock price reaction is anything to go by, the ruling is a net positive for Apple but hardly a game-changer. Nevertheless, it provides some incentive for technology companies to sort out standards, patents, and licensing matters among themselves (the other alternative being to seek remedy through the courts -- a long and expensive process).
None of this is helpful to Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) and its drive to capture part of the devices market. The company began discounting its Surface Pro tablet this weekend with a 10% price cut. In its latest earnings report, the company took a $900 million charge on its inventory of its Surface RT tablets, which had been marked down 30% at retail. My guess is that this latest round of discounting won't be the last.