Investors are wondering if yesterday's big rally -- up 207 points on the Dow Industrials -- was a one-day wonder or the start of a legitimate rebound. The mere rumor of progress in dealing with the fiscal cliff seemed to be enough to get investors back into stocks, at least for one day. In reality, there has been little progress in coming up with a plan to avoid the tax crisis at the end of the year -- at least nothing public. Helping the market yesterday were shares of Apple, up $38 to $566, still well below the all-time high of $705 set a couple of months ago.
Stocks have opened lower this morning, but you can blame it all on one stock: Hewlett-Packard. The shares are down more than 13 percent to $11.50 -- the lowest level in nearly 20 years -- after reporting earnings before the start of trading. The numbers themselves weren't all that bad but one item has rocked the stock. HP said it is taking a $8.8 billion "asset impairment charge" relating to the purchase last year of a British software company, Autonomy, for $11.7 billion. The report charged "serious accounting improprieties" relating to the deal structured by former CEO Leo Apotheker. Poor Meg Whitman can't catch a break since she took over for the Apotheker, who seems to have made a series of deals dragging down HP, which has a large presence here in San Diego.
***** Yet another sign is pointing toward a rebound in housing. This morning the Commerce Department reported new home construction activity rose by 3.6 percent in October to an annualized rate of 894,000 units, the fastest rate of growth since July 2008. The "experts" had been looking for construction activity to decline during the month. The vast majority of the activity was in multifamily projects like apartments and condos. The same report, however, did show building permits -- a sign of future construction -- declined by 2.7 percent.
***** Also on the real estate beat, the First Republic Prestige Home Index rose in the major California metropolitan areas, including San Diego. Prices here have increased for three quarters in a row, including a 2.2 percent increase in the third quarter compared to a year ago. "Historic low interest rates have resulted in an elevated level of activity in luxury markets throughout California," said Katherine August-DeWilde of First Republic. The average price of a luxury home sold in San Diego County last month was $1.6 million.
***** Nordstrom is the happiest place in America to work. That's according to a new survey from CareerBliss, an online employment community. It rated retailers on several key factors including wages, benefits, company culture and work environment. "Nordstrom is one of the places on the earth that is consistently ranked on both customer service as well as employee happiness," said Heidi Golledge, CEO of CareerBliss. Also ranked high on the survey were Macy's, OfficeMax, Best Buy and Game Stop.
***** It looks like Kellogg's may have jumped the shark when it comes to holiday treats. The food giant has introduced new flavors for its popular Pringles brand, which it claims is "America's favorite snack crisp." I'm not sure exactly was a "crisp" is but I doubt the potato content is real high. Anyway, Kellogg's is rolling out new versions of Pringles in flavors like White Chocolate Peppermint, Cinnamon and Sugar, and Pumpkin Pie Spice. I bet they go really well with onion dip. As you can gather, I'm not a big fan of Pringles but my granddaughter, Sophia, loves them. To me this is sort of like bringing out a chipotle-flavored version of Corn Flakes, another popular Kellogg's product.