Despite spending the morning in the red, stocks rose in the afternoon to finish with modest gains, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) set a new closing record. The blue chips tacked on 32 points, or 0.2%, for the day to finish at 16,583, just edging past its former closing high of 16,581 set on April 30. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq, meanwhile, gained 0.2% and 0.5%, respectively.
With no major economic reports influencing investors, and earnings season complete for the vast majority of big-name stocks, it was a relatively quiet day on Wall Street. Investors continued to keep one eye on events in the Ukraine as recent data showing strong economic growth and better-than-expected earnings from the first quarter has kept stocks near record highs.
McDonald's (NYSE:MCD) led the blue chips into record territory today, gaining 1% on reports that it may add seasoned french fries to its menu. Fries are a hallmark of the fast-food king, but rivals have been expanding their selection, as Wendy's introduced natural-cut fries, and Burger King unveiled a lower-calorie selection in recent years. McDonald's has decided to respond by testing flavor packs in three varieties -- garlic parmesan, spicy buffalo, and zesty ranch -- in two markets starting today. Customers would add the seasoning to the fries and shake them up in the bag. The news comes the day after the burger chain posted a 1.2% gain in comparable sales, an improvement over its first-quarter clip at 0.5%. Though the company promised to refocus on its core offerings, the seasoned fries offer an example of the many potential add-ons McDonald's can roll out to spice up its menu.
Also sparking curiosity today were rumors that Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) was preparing to buy headphone-maker Beats Electronics for $3.2 billion. The acquisition would be the biggest in Apple's history, but would be a surprising one, as it does not seem to give the iPhone maker access to anything particularly unique, technology or otherwise. Headphones seem like a natural expansion for the iOS ecosystem, as Apple's earbuds can be uncomfortable and difficult to untangle, and Beats targets a similar customer. Beats also offers a music streaming service, but Apple recently rolled out its own in iTunes Radio last fall. The deal remains just a rumor at this point, and Apple shares finished down 0.4% on the day, indicating that investors may not be thrilled with the idea. With the tens of billions Apple has in its coffers, I'd like to see it moving toward more futurisitic technology if it's going to make a big-name acquisition like this one.