Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over daily movements, we do like to keep an eye on market changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.
Stocks have recovered from their lows of the day, but the major indexes are still in the red so far, with the S&P 500 (SNPINDEX:^GSPC) and the narrower, price-weighted Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) down 0.34% and 0.62%, respectively, at 3:05 p.m. EDT.
Microsoft: Beyond the "founders' era"
One stock bucking the broad trend today is Dow component Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), ostensibly on a Reuters report that three of the software giant's top 20 shareholders are pushing for Bill Gates to relinquish his chairman's role. On the whole, I think the investors' positive reaction is deserved; this is another sign that Microsoft is transitioning beyond what I would call the "founders' era" -- Bill Gates co-founded the company in 1975, and Steve Ballmer, who will step down as CEO within the next 12 months, joined the company as its first business manager back in 1980.
Perhaps encouraged by activist fund manager ValueAct Capital, which has negotiated a board seat for itself, Microsoft investors are waking up to the notion that there are no sacred cows. Given that the PC industry looks like it has hit an inflection point as consumers move to mobile and tablet computing, that is precisely the sort of attitude shareholders -- and the company itself -- need to adopt.
The bankers' warning
The heads of more than a dozen of the country's top financial institutions, including Bank of America's (NYSE:BAC) Brian Moynihan and Goldman Sachs' (NYSE:GS) Lloyd Blankfein, met with President Obama today with a warning concerning the negative impact of an extended government shutdown and, particularly, a technical default by the U.S. on its borrowings. These are interested parties, to be sure -- the financial system would be ground zero in the event of a default, and the cost and consequences are incalculable.
While the full extent of the damage cannot be known beforehand, it's absolutely certain is that the toll would be enormous -- and not just on the financiers, either. U.S. Treasury securities are the archstone of the financial system; disrupting them would create a ripple effect through the entire economy, much as Lehman's bankruptcy did. This is one occasion on which politicians ought to listen closely to the bankers.
Fool contributor Alex Dumortier, CFA has no position in any stocks mentioned; you can follow him on Twitter @longrunreturns. The Motley Fool recommends Bank of America and Goldman Sachs. The Motley Fool owns shares of Bank of America and Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.