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.
Building permits jumped to a five-year high this morning, but stocks still finished flat, as the market appears to be stuck in neutral, with earnings in the rearview mirror and no major events on the horizon. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) finished almost exactly unchanged, up just 0.26 points, as a late-session dip once again killed what would have been modest gains for the day. The S&P 500 was up just 0.01%, while the Nasdaq ended above 4,000 for the first time since 2000, gaining 0.6% on the day.
For October, requests to build new homes reached 1.034 million, outpacing expectations of just 932,000, indicating that the housing market, a major engine of this year's bull run, continues to improve. The figure was up from 974,000 in September, which was also reported today, because of the government shutdown, and also beat expectations. Other reports showed home values continued to increase. Elsewhere, consumer confidence fell, dropping to 70.4. That was below expectations, and down from 72.4 in the Conference Board's last report. The new rating is a seven-month low for the index, which was in the 80s this summer, and seems to bode poorly for the holiday shopping season. Concerns about employment and wages weighed on consumers.
Disney (NYSE:DIS) led the Dow today, moving up 2.1% to a new all-time high as UBS increased its earnings estimates on the entertainment giant and lifted its price target to $78. The Swiss bank said ad revenue from next year's World Cup should help benefit the media company, which owns ESPN, the world's largest sports network. Disney has had a strong year, with its shares up more than 40% as it's seen increased sales at its theme parks, and its TV assets continue to churn out cash.
Barnes & Noble (NYSE:BKS) shares finished down 6%, as the bookstore chain disappointed in its third-quarter earnings report. The Nook, once seen as the savior of the retail chain, continued its demise, as sales in that division dropped 32.2%. Overall, sales fell 8% at the company. Despite the drop in sales, profit improved on cost-cutting as adjusted earnings per share came in at $0.15, much better than estimates of a $0.03-per-share loss. Still, management saw revenue continuing to fall by the high single digits over the next six months. With Amazon.com gaining in power and the Nook faltering, it's unclear how Barnes & Noble will stay afloat long term.
Finally, shares of Jos. A. Bank (UNKNOWN:JOSB.DL) and Men's Wearhouse (NYSE:TLRD) jumped 11% and 7%, respectively, after Men's Wearhouse offered to buy the smaller men's retailer for $55 a share, or $1.5 billion. The offer comes after Jos. A. Bank had proposed to acquire Men's Wearhouse back in October, and Men's Wearhouse's retaliatory offer seems to indicate that both companies see a combination as being in their interest. Jos. A. Bank released a statement saying it will evaluate the proposal and release a response in due time. Shares of both companies could move higher as the market anticipates a deal.