Continued geopolitical risk—particularly in Ukraine and Gaza—helped push stocks lower early in the session, but losses moderated in the afternoon. Russia’s MICEX Index fell 2.7% in today’s trading, pressured by the prospect of further sanctions against the country as the investigation continued into the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17.
The Dow fell 48 points, with 22 of its 30 components retreating; the S&P 500 Index dropped 4; and the Nasdaq lost 7. Decliners led advancers by five to three on the NYSE and the Nasdaq. The prices of Treasuries strengthened. Gold futures gained $4.50 to close at $1,313.90 an ounce, and the price of crude oil rose 91 cents to settle at $102.86 a barrel.
In Earnings News:
- Shares of Hasbro Inc. (HAS) dropped 2.69% after the toymaker reported falling sales of games and preschool toys. Net income for the quarter was $33.5 million, down from $36.5 million a year ago due to a tax adjustment. Revenue rose 8.2% to $829.3 million. Sales of Transformers and My Little Pony toys were strong, with strong international sales growth of 17% overall, but U.S. and Canadian sales fell 1.6%.
In Other Business News:
- Britain’s Serious Fraud Office has opened up an investigation into whether some traders are colluding to rig the foreign exchange market. The investigation follows the successful suit against several banks for manipulating LIBOR, a widely used interest-rate benchmark.
- The Forbes family will sell its controlling interest in Forbes Media LLC to a group of Hong Kong investors for $300 million. The family will maintain a minority stake in the company, which publishes the Forbes magazine as well as several online properties. The deal allows the Forbes family to buy out Elevation Partners LLC, which invested $264 million in the company in 2006 and will now recoup most of its initial investment.
- Allergan, manufacturer of Botox, announced it would cut 1,500 jobs as part of an attempt to streamline its operations to avoid a hostile takeover by rival pharmaceutical manufacturer Valeant. The cuts represent 13% of its workforce. Allergan said the restructuring will lead to costs of up to $425 million but that it would save the company $475 million a year in ongoing costs by fiscal year 2015. It also reported second-quarter earnings and revenue that beat expectations, with earnings up 16% to $417.2 million and revenue up 17% to $1.86 billion. Its shares (AGN) rose 2.23%.
- Twitter’s shares (TWTR) gained 2.70% after a report in The Wall Street Journal that the company will soon unveil new ways of measuring the reach of its users that go beyond the 255 million active users of the service.
It’s a familiar sight: Municipalities do anything they can to lure companies to their region, offering tax breaks or other deals that can make or break a company’s decision to set up shop elsewhere. What’s not so familiar is seeing those same tactics being used to lure residents as well.
Harmony, Minnesota, a city of about 1,000 residents just north of the Iowa/Minnesota border, decided it needed to take drastic measures to bring new blood into its aging community. One problem is that the housing stock is older and doesn’t appeal to younger families with kids. (Of course, fifty years ago, young families with kids managed in those houses just fine, but that’s another story.)
To refresh its housing stock while also encouraging people to move to the city, Harmony decided to go the cold, hard cash route: It’s offering cash rebates up to $12,000 for people who build a house in the city. Even cities are beginning to think you have to spend money to make money. City officials in Harmony expect the payback time—in terms of property taxes—will be about five years. If my neighbor got $12,000 to build next to me, I think I’d feel comfortable asking them to mow my lawn. Think of it as a more immediate payback of the subsidy.
If you want to build a house with that $12,000 and have some cash to spare, you could experiment with the new phenomenon of 3-D house printing. WinSun Decoration Design Engineering in China has begun using 3-D printing to make entire houses. Four huge 3-D printers use a special cement to build up successive layers until what’s left is something that’s vaguely house-like. WinSun says it can print 10 houses in a single day, with each 2,100-square-foot house costing about $4,000. “Sure, it looks like a prison,” the owners would be able to brag, “but it’s a prison that was built in less than a day.”
You could move to Harmony, put up one house for $4,000, a guest house for another $4,000, and then still have $4,000 left over to build the world’s best 3-D-printed doghouse. Considering that’d probably take up a big chunk of the entire lot and potentially enrage neighbors, maybe it’d be smart to keep a little money left over to 3-D print a really tall fence.