Stats to show who’s a turkey and who’s a team player

A bounty of better-than-expected economic reports gave investors plenty to digest before the Thanksgiving holiday. The Dow added 24 points and the S&P 500 Index gained 4 to close at record highs; the Nasdaq rose 27 points. Nineteen of the Dow’s 30 components rose, led by 1% gains from 3M (MMM) and Intel (INTC). Volume was light, with advancers beating decliners by three to two on the NYSE and by five to two on the Nasdaq. Treasury prices fell following a weak 7-year note auction, and gold futures declined $3.60 to $1,237.90 an ounce. Crude oil futures fell $1.38 to $92.30 a barrel after two reports showed an unexpected rise in inventories.

In Earnings News:

  • Hewlett-Packard shares (HPQ) spiked 8% the day after its fiscal fourth-quarter earnings beat analysts’ expectations in both revenue and earnings per share. H-P returned to profitability with adjusted net income of $1.01 per share on $29.1 billion in revenue. Revenue declined in all lines of business except for its enterprise group, which includes networking and industry-standard servers. Personal computer revenue slipped 2%—an improvement over the 11% decline in the third quarter—total PC shipments increased 2%, with notebooks increasing 3%, while desktops fell 5%. Industrywide PC sales decreased 8%, according to research firm Gartner.  

 

In Other Business News:

  • The Labor Department said initial jobless claims decreased 10,000 to 316,000 for the week that ended November 23. The four-week moving average declined 7,500 to 331,750, the lowest level in nearly two months.
  • Orders for durable goods slipped 2% in October, according to the Commerce Department—largely due to sharp declines in commercial and military aircraft orders, which were strong in September. Although the transportation component dipped 5.9% month over month, orders for autos increased 1.7%. Excluding transportation, durable goods orders ticked lower 0.1%.  
  • Leading economic indicators continued to rise in October, up 0.2% following an upwardly-revised 0.9% in September and 0.7% increase in August, according to the Conference Board.
  • The University of Michigan and Thomson Reuters provided a more upbeat view of consumer sentiment following the decline in the Conference Board’s report yesterday. Its final November index increased to 75.1 from 72 mid-month and from 73.2 at the end of October. Although the index remains below the 77.5 it hit in September, the consumer expectations gauge of the index increased sharply from October levels.
  • Business activity in the Chicago area ebbed slightly in November to 63.0 from 65.9 in October, which was the strongest reading since March 2011. The results were higher than economists’ expectations and showed healthy readings in new orders, employment, and inventories. Readings above 50 indicate that business activity is expanding.
  • Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade may have to shelf its balloons this year if winds are greater than 23 mph or gusts are more than 34 mph. New York City set the guidelines following a 1997 incident that knocked over a light post and injured an onlooker.    

 

*****

Sports have their megastars, thankless benchwarmers, also-rans, and everyone else in between. With the speed and strength of today’s athletes and the pace of the games they play, it isn’t always easy to keep tabs on what everyone is doing. STATS LLC is trying to add transparency to the sports we love through its SportVU system, which uses small cameras and proprietary software to record and document all the action within the game. Development is underway to enhance statistics in hockey, American football, and cricket, while this tracking technology is currently being used in professional soccer and basketball, including the National Basketball Association.

This year, STATS and the NBA entered into a multiyear agreement where SportVU will keep track of all 10 players on the court, the referees, and ball movement every 30th of a second in every game of the season. It will record, categorize, and subcategorize every dribble, pass, shot, and rebound, while measuring speed, player separation, and possession of the ball. But wait, there’s more. With this technology, STATS is able figure out things like “free-throw assists” (the pass the led to a free throw at the stripe), “hockey assists” (the pass before the pass that led to the score), or who was scored upon. Rebounds will reach new bounds in subcategories like open rebounds, contested rebounds, short rebounds, long rebounds, or missed free-throw rebounds. But that’s not all. Players coming back from injuries can be compared with how they were before the injury and teams can use that data to form training and post-game regimens. Referees are under further scrutiny, too. It may mean that the best of the best and most-consistent refs get the nod for the biggest games. (Yeah, they should probably call more traveling. It’s so obvious.)

With all of this information, we can probably figure out the important things, like who’s a ball hog and who overuses the open-mouthed head fake. We should probably drill down further to determine who the chuckers are, too. Of course, it could be used with good intentions as well. We can see who’s a team player and give the unsung heroes their overdue “thank you.” Some of the data will remain proprietary to the teams, but a lot will filter through the stats engine at NBA.com and the league’s mobile app.

Fantastic stuff. Having a cornucopia of statistics is nice, but it doesn’t always require sophisticated cameras to know where credit is due. At our Thanksgiving dinner table, we would keep a running count of how often grandma got up from the table. She had the seat closest to the kitchen because she made the frequent trips to keep the table stocked. Counting her trips was our annual joke, but we learned you don’t really need to be present to really be there for someone. Have a happy Thanksgiving.

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