The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) was trading flat today after jobless claims for last week were 10,000 lower than the previous week, down to 316,000; that was enough to drop the four-week moving average to 331,750. Also, In a bit of good news for investors, Thomson-Reuters/University of Michigan's November sentiment index rose to 75.1 from its original reading of 72, meaning that consumers' moods have improved as we approach the kickoff of the holiday shopping season. It was also an improvement over October's end reading of 73.2. While many businesses will make headlines once the holiday shopping season begins, here are a few making moves today.
Caterpillar (NYSE:CAT) has had a rough year, and things aren't looking to improve anytime soon. The heavy-equipment manufacturer took another blow recently when federal investigators announced they would be probing a unit of Caterpillar to uncover whether or not it had dumped train parts into the ocean off California. It's reportedly part of a scam by Progress Rail, acquired by Caterpillar in 2006 for roughly $800 million, to charge customers for rail equipment and parts that weren't needed.
This is just another item in a long list of problems that have made investors cautious to invest in Caterpillar. The company's third-quarter earnings took a 44% nosedive on revenues nearly $11 billion lower than last year. Although the company recently increased its dividend by 15% in the second quarter, headlines like this aren't welcome news to any potential investors hoping for a Caterpillar turnaround in the years ahead.
It's no secret that the automotive industry in the U.S. has been rebounding, and Ford (NYSE:F) is looking to take advantage of the holiday season. Last year, Ford's online sales leads increased 17% on "Black Friday," and included a large 22% jump for its most profitable vehicle, the F-150. As consumers continue to do more pricing research online, Ford is trying to rope in those consumers. Ford officially kicked off its digital promotions last week, which has doubled to 50% of its holiday advertising mix since 2011.
Ron Merbler, digital manager, Ford enterprise digital solutions, said in a press release:
Ford embraced digital dealer opportunities early and today is uniquely positioned to turn online interest into a dealer visit -- whether it's to purchase a vehicle, or for service or maintenance. Accessing content via mobile screens is key to how Americans buy vehicles now, and the Thanksgiving shopping weekend provides an opportunity for us to engage them while they're already shopping.
Meanwhile, Ford's cross-town rival General Motors (NYSE:GM) had its own announcement today. General Motors will convert all of its Series B preferred stock to common stock, effective Dec 1. That will take about 100 million shares of preferred stock, and will automatically convert to 1.3736 shares of common stock with General Motors paying cash for the fractional stock. As the U.S. treasury nears its exit, estimated to happen by the end of this year, General Motors may elect to reinstate its common stock dividend in the near future.