Friday’s sell-off continued into this week, as apparent skittishness ahead of earnings season continued to weigh on cyclical and previously high-flying tech stocks. Economic reports have shown that the first two-thirds of the quarter had significant weather-related effects, so one question is how much will show up in company earnings.
The Dow fell 166 points, led down by the 2.99% drop in Pfizer’s (PFE) shares. Twenty-three of the Dow’s thirty components lost ground. The S&P 500 Index lost 20, and the Nasdaq dropped 47 for its worst three-session decline since 2011. Decliners led advancers by 13 to 5 on the NYSE and 19 to 6 on the Nasdaq. The prices of Treasuries strengthened. Gold futures fell $5.20 to close at $1,298.30 an ounce, and the price of crude oil dropped 70 cents to settle at $100.44 a barrel.
In Other Business News:
- The World Bank cut its forecast for China’s economic growth this year from 7.7% to 7.6%. The cut is the result of a disappointing first quarter for China’s economy, which has slowed more than economists had expected. However, the World Bank signaled confidence in the economic reforms the Chinese government announced in November, as it could have a “profound impact on China’s land, labor, and capital markets.” The reforms include tax, regulatory simplification, and land-use policies.
- In a sign of concern over the upcoming earnings season, some of the hardest hit stocks today have been tech stocks with recent momentum. Shares of Pandora Media (P) dropped 4.96%, continuing a recent slide that’s brought its nearly 50% January-to-March gains back to breakeven; Tesla Motor’s shares (TSLA) fell 2.22%; Google’s (GOOGL) were off 0.85%; Yahoo! Inc.’s (YHOO) dropped 3.47%; and Nasdaq heavyweight Apple Inc.’s shares (AAPL) fell 1.57%.
- This could be the busiest week for initial public offerings since November 2007, according to data from Dealogic. Fourteen firms are scheduled to begin trading this week, including hotel chain La Quinta Holdings Inc. and Ally Financial, currently majority-owned by the U.S. Treasury, which will sell Ally shares this week.
- The merger of Swiss firm Holcim Ltd. and French firm Larfarge SA, announced today, would create the world’s largest construction materials company. Subject to regulatory approval, the merger of the two cement-making giants would lead to a company with a market cap of roughly $50 billion. As part of the approval process and to avoid antitrust concerns, the company said it would divest assets responsible for $7 billion in revenue of its estimated combined $43 billion in revenue.
As vacation season kicks off with the upcoming Memorial Day holiday next month, workers everywhere rejoice at the prospect of escaping the office for time spent in their chosen vacation spot. Or perhaps not. According to a new study by Harris Interactive and the employment website Glassdoor.com, three-quarters of American workers don’t take all the vacation time allotted them. The average worker, meanwhile, takes only 51% of their vacation time. I may not be in the top echelon of many categories of life, but at the very least, I strive to be in the top 25% bracket of those who take all their vacation days. Because if you don’t set your sights high, what’s the point?
The reasons workers don’t take all their vacations days varied widely. The number one reason, reported by 33% of respondents, was a consequence of the economy’s recession and extended anemic recovery. Leaner staffing means fewer workers doing more work, so workers’ vacations are hampered by the fact that no one else can do the job.
Twenty-eight percent cited a fear of getting behind, but because most people are chronically behind anyway, what’s a few more days of emails to chug through? (Actually, now that I think about it, a lot.) A “complete dedication to the company” was cited by 22% of workers, although I’d think that dedication is a two-way street, and if the company is completely dedicated to you, it should see to it that you take your days off as well. Nineteen percent avoided taking all their vacation days because they wanted a promotion, while 17% were afraid of losing their job. Thirteen percent explicitly said they were trying to outperform their co-workers, so if you see someone in the office tied to their chair from dawn till dusk, never taking any vacation days and glaring over at you while cackling with delight, yes, they probably have it in for you. If it helps, you can think of them hunched over their desk while you’re at the beach.
Then again, that worker might strike back. Of those who did manage to get away for vacation, say, to a beautiful week spent on some ocean shore, 24% reported being contacted by co-workers for work-related matters. Sneaky. Maybe the best way to solve that problem is by insisting that the call be held on a video app on the phone. And then point the phone at the ocean.
Do you normally take all your vacation days, or do you always find reasons not to? Leave your answers and the best number to reach you while on vacation in the comments area below.