Wall Street treated investors last week to the same kind of Halloween goodies Charlie Brown gets -- nothing but rocks.

The week began in erratic fashion on Monday, as investors pitted worries about weakening consumer spending against solid corporate profits. The blue chips remained little changed, while techs fared modestly better.

Tuesday, the final day of the month, left stocks treading water again amid disappointing reports on consumer confidence and manufacturing strength in the Midwest.

Weaker-than-expected national manufacturing data sent stocks down on Wednesday. The Dow lost more than 49 points, and the Nasdaq relinquished more than 32 points.

On Thursday, lukewarm retail sales numbers and downright chilly productivity figures put a scare into the market as fears of a recession haunted investors. Stocks managed to close only modestly lower, because of declining oil prices mitigating an earlier sell-off.

Finally, on Friday, came the eagerly awaited September employment report. The figures showed an unexpectedly strong labor market, with the unemployment rate at a five-year low. Those anticipating a soft economic landing were tricked, and hopes for an imminent treat of interest-rate cuts were dashed.

Economic data scheduled for release this week includes corporate credit tomorrow, and trade data and preliminary consumer sentiment on Thursday.

Corporations slated to report earnings include Anadarko Petroleum, Charles River Lab, Corrections Corp., Great Wolf Resorts, and XM Satellite Radio today; and Dean Foods, EchoStar, RR Donnelley, Steris, Tenet Healthcare, and Wild Oats Markets tomorrow. On Wednesday, we'll hear from Cablevision, Hospira, Polo Ralph Lauren; and on Thursday, we'll have American International Group, Global Crossing, J.C. Penney, Lions Gate, and Viacom.

Stay market-tuned and Foolish!

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Foolish quiz
1. True or false: Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) dragged the Dow down on Monday.

2. As of Friday's close, the Dow had posted its longest losing streak in more than (a) a week; (b) a month; (c) a year.

3. Which food company's shares got spooked after it reported earnings: Burger King (NYSE:BKC) or Whole Foods (NASDAQ:WFMI)?

4. Which media company broadcast news that it is planning a share buyback: CBS (NYSE:CBS) or Time Warner (NYSE:TWX)?

5. True or false: Wall Street applauded the announced merger agreement between CVS (NYSE:CVS) and Caremark.

6. Which retail segment posted stronger October sales figures: department stores or discounters?

7. Which automakers posted a rise in U.S. sales last month? (a) DaimlerChrysler; (b) Ford; (c) General Motors; (d) none of the above.

8. True or false: The Dow hit 15 record closes in October.

9. In which month has the S&P 500 performed the best for more than 50 years: November or December?

10. True or false: Millions of Americans who purchased a fireman's costume for Fido this Halloween gave shares of Petsmart a leg up last week.

1. True. On Monday, the world's largest retailer announced that it expected to release its weakest same-store-sales growth in six years and below its previous estimates for October. Shares of Wal-Mart fell 2.4%.

2. (c). The Dow fell for the sixth consecutive day on Friday, the longest streak in 16 months and just one week after it had reached a new record closing high.

3. Whole Foods. Shares of Whole Foods plunged an unwholesome 23.1% on Friday after the natural-foods purveyor reported disappointing sales, announced that 2007 will be a "transition year" (i.e., not so delicious), and lowered its sales growth forecast. Earnings tasted better from Burger King, which on Wednesday posted an 82% swell in profits. Shares rose 6.7%, while one can only wonder whether the average American's cholesterol count did the same.

4. CBS. After reporting on Thursday that operating profits increased 4% because of strength in billboard advertising but that broadcast TV sales were flat and radio revenue declined, CBS said it plans a share buyback of between $1 billion and $1.5 billion early next year. Shares, however, still lost 0.3%.

Time Warner didn't report a buyback but did announce earnings on Wednesday. Despite gains in earnings and revenues, the numbers were still below expectations, as the movie and magazine businesses faltered. The company reaffirmed its outlook for the year, but shares fell 1.2%.

5. False. After CVS on Wednesday confirmed plans to purchase Caremark for $21.2 billion in a stock transaction, shares of both companies didn't feel so well. The next day, both companies reported healthy profit growth. Shares of CVS fell 7.7% for the week, and those of Caremark dropped 4.6%.

6. Department stores. Full-price fashions made up more sales than their discount duplicates last month, according to data revealed last Thursday. Sales at Nordstrom rose 10.7%, and Federated Department Stores reported 7.7% sales growth, while Wal-Mart made good on its bleak forecast with only a 0.5% increase. Overall unimpressed with the numbers, the S&P Retail Index slipped 0.7%.

7. (b), (c). GM revved things up with a 17.3% increase in October monthly sales from a year ago, while Ford's accelerated 8.1%. Daimler Chrysler's U.S. sales slipped 1.6%.

8. False. It was really 13, but need we quibble?

9. November. According to the Stock Trader's Almanac, November ranks first, with an average 1.7% gain for the S&P 500 since 1950.

10. False. If you thought otherwise, then perhaps you were barking up the wrong stock. Shares of Petsmart dropped 3% last week even though more than 3.5 million Americans were expected to purchase a Halloween product for their pets this year.

Hey, there's always Christmas -- the company unveiled its 14 top holiday gifts for pets last week.


  • 8-10 correct: Foolishly impressive.
  • 6-7 correct: Almost Foolish.
  • 1-5 correct: OK, but just barely.
  • 0 correct: Really?! Keep reading the Fool, and watch your scores improve!

Wal-Mart is a Motley Fool Inside Value picks. Whole Foods, Petsmart, and Time Warner are Motley Fool Stock Advisor selections. XM Satellite Radio is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers pick. Great Wolf is a former Rule Breakers pick, and Tenet is a past recommendation of Stock Advisor. Whatever your investing style, the Fool hasa newsletter for you.

Fool contributor S.J. Caplan is a former vice president and assistant general counsel of Goldman Sachs and former vice president and derivative finance specialist at Lehman Brothers. She serves as an arbitrator for the New York Stock Exchange and the NASD. The Fool has a disclosure policy.