Top Stock Market Stories of the Week You Must Know Now

Here’s your Cheat Sheet to this week’s top stories:

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After briefly touching positive territory early in the morning, the U.S. equity markets struggled with losses all day to end in the red across the board. Slower than expected manufacturing growth offset strong gains in construction spending.

At the close: DJIA: -0.04%, S&P 500: -0.45%, NASDAQ: -0.87%.

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On the commodities front, WTI crude oil (NYSEARCA:USO) fell 0.34 percent to $96.90 per barrel. The yield on the 10-year T-note fell 0.014 points to 1.836 percent. Gold (NYSEARCA:GLD) futures for June delivery, the most active contract, gained $5.20 to close at $1,600.90 per ounce, while silver (NYSEARCA:SLV) futures for May fell 38 cents to finish at $27.94.

Gold climbed higher as the U.S. dollar index retreated from multi-month highs. The expansion of the manufacturing sector was slower than expected last month. The Institute for Supply Management’s index of national factory activity dropped to 51.3 in March, compared to 54.2 in the previous month. A reading below 50 indicates contraction. U.S. Steel Corp. (NYSE:X) fell 4.0 percent on the news.

Here’s your Cheat Sheet to Monday’s top stock stories:

Without providing further terms or details, Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) announced that it plans to purchase Goodreads, an e-reader program that adds a social layer to the experience. Boasting 16 million members, Goodreads is a good purchase for Amazon, but not everyone is happy with the proposed acquisition… (Read more.)

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Despite falling sales in all segments, BlackBerry (NASDAQ:BBRY) does not seem to be giving up; a leaked road map published by Computerworld suggested the company has some new products in the pipeline… (Read more.)

Novarits (NYSE:NVS) started the week with a setback; on Monday, India’s supreme court denied the Basel, Switzerland-based pharmaceutical manufacturer’s request for patent protection of its Glivec cancer treatment, a move which will enable the country’s generic drugmakers to continue selling their cheaper versions of the medication… (Read more.)

Dell (NASDAQ:DELL) founder Michael Dell will reportedly only consider a buyout offer from Blackstone Group (NYSE:BX) that allows him to retain the title of chief executive officer. A person familiar with the discussions told Bloomberg that Mr. Dell wants to retain an influential role at his namesake company, but the consortium of private equity firms with competing bids on the table do not all see him as a key player moving forward.

Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) surged 15.94 percent after the beleaguered electric-vehicle company announced that sales of its award-winning Model S sedan exceeded targets set in February. The company reported that it sold more than 4,750 units versus guidance for 4,500 units. The stock broke a long-standing resistance level of about $40.

eBay (NASDAQ:EBAY) stock climbed 2.75 percent on Monday after the online marketplace received an upgrade from Hold to Buy from analysts at Canaccord Genuity. The firm pointed out that eBay has a stable growth platform backed by PayPal, which could provide a surprising amount of upside to the stock.

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American Greetings (NYSE:AM) closed the day up 12.11 percent at $18.05 after agreeing to be taken private. The group leading the effort consists of some of the company’s top executives. The deal is valued at about $580 million, or $18.20 per share.

Hess (NYSE:HES) closed the day up 2.7 percent after the company announced that it is selling its Russian subsidiary, Samara-Nafta, for $2.05 billion to Lukoil.

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The U.S. equity markets advanced on Tuesday. Investors seem to brush aside poor manufacturing data out of Europe and took strong U.S. factory orders data as a good omen. The Dow and S&P set fresh records.

At the close: DJIA: +0.61%, S&P 500: +0.42%, NASDAQ: +0.48%.

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On the commodities front, WTI crude oil (NYSEARCA:USO) fell 0.23 percent to $96.85 per barrel. The yield on the 10-year T-note increased 0.029 points to 1.862 percent. Gold (NYSEARCA:GLD) fell 1.54 percent to $1,576.30 per ounce, and Silver (NYSEARCA:SLV) fell 2.49 percent to $27.21 per ounce.

Here’s your Cheat Sheet to Tuesday’s top stock stories:

AstraZeneca (NYSE:AZN) has traveled a bumpy road in recent months after facing sharp declines in revenue as patents on top-selling drugs — including the cholesterol treatment Crestor and its anti-psychotic medicine Seroquel — expire. The pharmaceutical manufacturer’s patent problems keep mounting. A United States District Court in New Jersey ruled Tuesday that the patent protecting the Anglo-Swedish company’s asthma drug Pulmicort Respules is invalid… (Read more.)

Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ) closed the day down 5.19 percent. In the absence of other major news, a downgrade to Sell from an analyst at Goldman Sachs is being credited as the catalyst for the movement. “Sentiment has moved ahead of reality. While we recognize H-P’s valuation remains compressed, we believe that the stock has room to fall under earnings powers comes under incremental pressure,” the analyst wrote, according to ValueWalk.

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United Health (NYSE:UNH) closed the day up 4.7 percent. Like with HP, in the absence of other major news an analyst upgrade has been cited as the catalyst for the movement. Raymond James upgraded the stock from Outperform to Strong Buy with a price target of $71, a 15 percent upside on its closing price. The analyst expects the company to benefit from higher payouts in medicare.

Hertz (NYSE:HTZ) closed the day up 6.85 percent after outlining a growth plan that was better than most expectations. Hertz completed a $2.2 billion acquisition of former-rival Dollar Thrifty in the fourth quarter, and will now be able to focus on profitability instead of competition.

Delta Air Lines (DAL) closed the day down 8.06 percent after reporting that passenger revenue per available seat mile climbed just 2 percent in March, short of expectations for 4 percent growth. The company commented: “The reduction from previous guidance is due to lower close-in bookings driven by the sequester, lower than expected demand as a result of our attempt to drive higher yields, and temporary inefficiencies during implementation of new revenue management technology.”

Humana (NYSE:HUM) climbed 5.45 percent, toward the head of a 1.19 percent gain across the healthcare industry in general. Healthcare stocks were buoyed by news of a reimbursement rate reversal by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

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Nuance Communications (NASDAQ:NUAN) closed the day up 5.7 percent after news got out that Carl Icahn owns a 9.3 percent stake (worth about $591 million) in the company. Nuance Communications builds voice recognition software and is reportedly the mastermind behind Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) Siri.

Following strong domestic performance for the month of March, American car manufacturers are seeing shares rise across the board. Tesla Motors (NASDAQ:TSLA) posted its first-ever quarterly profit, sending its shares racing over 20 percent on Monday and settling ahead 16 percent by closing. Ford (NYSE:F) had a great month of March, reporting its best monthly sales since May of 2007. General Motors (NYSE:GM) followed suit, with its best March in five years, and landed 6 percent up in its year-over-year measure.

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A weaker than expected payroll report weighed heavily on the markets on Wednesday. ADP reported that an average of 191,000 new private sector payrolls were added per month in the first quarter, and March’s numbers fell about 17 percent below that at 158,000 additions. This compares against expectations for about 200,000 additions.

DJIA: -0.76% to 14,550.30 S&P 500: -1.06% to 1,553.68 NASDAQ: -1.11% to 3,218.60
Gold: -1.15% to $1,557.70 per ounce WTI Crude: -2.83% to $94.44 per barrel U.S. 10-Year: -0.050 points to 1.810%.

The Energy Information Administration reported that an increase in refinery outputs pushed crude stockpiles well above the upper limit of the average range for this time of year. The weekly petroleum status report showed inventories jumped by 2.7 million barrels in the week ended March 29, bringing the total store to 388.6 million barrels.

Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, issued a statement on Wednesday revealing that the IMF reached a staff-level agreement to contribute 1 billion euros ($1.3 billion) to Cyprus’s bailout program.

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Here’s your Cheat Sheet to Wednesday’s top stock stories:

Social media gaming guru Zynga (NASDAQ:ZNGA) took a gamble — literally, and figuratively — and judging by investor response, the gamble has paid off. Following the announcement that the firm was offering real-currency online gambling in the U.K., Zynga shares have soared as much as 15 percent on Wednesday… (Read more.)

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On Twitter last week, Tesla Motors (NASDAQ:TSLA) CEO Elon Musk said that he was “putting his money where his mouth was,” and he was right. However, it was not in the sense that people were expecting, evidently. Tesla unveiled its new financing plan for the Model S, its flagship sedan. While the program offers some exceptional upsides and is truly a new way of financing a vehicle, the way that the company packaged it left a bit desired, and raised concerns and even scorn among observers and investors. Shares closed the day down 7.3 percent… (Read more.)

Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) closed the day down 2.8 percent, surfing a 1.55 percent decline in the financial sector at large. The bank was unable to shrug off bad economic mojo, as CEO Brian Moynihan held the first part of a two-day event in Chicago with more than 100 of the bank’s regional managers. As a source with direct knowledge of the project told Bloomberg, these leaders will be pushed to boost slumping revenue and be judged on how much progress they have made in selling the bank’s products — from credit cards to mortgages — to its 53 million customers… (Read more.)

Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) closed the day down 2.23 percent after a former trader pleaded guilty to an unauthorized $8.3 billion futures trade in 2007 that lost the company $118 million.

Monsanto (NYSE:MON) closed the day up 0.85 percent after reporting better-than-expected second-quarter profit of $2.74 per share, which compares to estimates for $2.58 per share. The seed maker also raised its fiscal 2013 earnings forecast from a range of $4.30 to $4.40 per share to a range of $4.40 to $4.50 per share.

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ConAgra Foods (NYSE:CAG) closed the day down 1.94 percent after reporting third-quarter earnings of $0.55 per share, just one cent shy of expectations. Diluted EPS from continuing operations fell from $0.67 in the year-ago period to $0.29.

Caterpillar (NYSE:CAT) closed the day down 0.90 percent after getting whacked with a downgrade to Neutral from Goldman Sachs. The firm’s new price target of $101 represents a 19 percent upside on Tuesday’s closing price.

Vodafone Group (NASDAQ:VOD) closed down 4.51 percent after Verizon (NYSE:VZ) filed a document with the SEC stating that “as Verizon has said many times, it would be a willing purchaser of the 45 percent stake that Vodafone holds in Verizon Wireless. It does not, however, currently have any intention to merge with or make an offer for Vodafone, whether alone or in conjunction with others.”

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The U.S. Department of Labor reported that initial claims for unemployment insurance increased by 28,000 in the last week of the month. Claims totaled a seasonally-adjusted 385,000, a 7.8 percent increase from last week’s unrevised figure of 357,000 and about 10 percent higher than expectations.

DJIA: +0.38% to 14,606.10 S&P 500: +0.40% to 1,559.97 NASDAQ: +0.20% to 3,224.98
Gold: -$1.10 to $1,552.40 WTI Crude:  -1.12% to $93.39 per barrel U.S. 10-Year: -0.048 points to 1.763 percent

The Markit Eurozone Composite PMI report for March, released on Thursday morning, showed that the decline in business activity accelerated for the second month in a row and is declining at its fastest rate since November. Output has fallen for 18 of the past 19 months.

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The ECB also announced on Thursday that it kept its benchmark rate unchanged. Some economists are expecting central bank President Mario Draghi to begin pursuing more unconventional policies in the near future. Meanwhile, Japan’s central bank announced that it would pursue an ambitious stimulus program. After his first policy meeting as head of the bank, Haruhiko Kuroda committed to open-ended asset purchases and suggests that the monetary base could double to 270 trillion yen ($2.9 trillion) by the end of 2014. This stimulus, $1.4 trillion over two years, is aimed at shocking the nation’s economy out of years of stagflation…

Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) wobbled to close up 0.12 percent after receiving a downgrade from Buy to Neutral by an analyst at Merill Lynch, who also lowered his price target from $45 to $33. According to Barron’s, the analyst wrote that “The MSFT bull case was low valuation and capital return, which are not the issues. It has admirably solved for revenue, EPS, cash flow and billings, but confidence is lacking in unit growth of Win 8 consumer devices […] It is difficult to pivot the investment case on MSFT till the fog of consumer Win 8 lifts.”

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Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) climbed 3 percent on Thursday after it introduced a new service called Home. As described in the press release: “Home isn’t a phone or operating system, and it’s also more than just an app.” Blurring the line between app and OS, Home is a set of features designed to turn a smart device into a piece of social media wizardry designed to dominate a user’s mobile usage… (Read more.)

Teradata (NYSE:TDC) closed the day down 7.45 percent after Morgan Stanley cut its 2013 revenue estimate on the stock from $2.92 to $2.82 billion and earnings from $3.15 to $3.05 per share.

Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ) closed the day of 1.78 percent. News broke at the end of the day that chairman Ray Lane will step down, along with John Hammergren and G. Kennedy Thompson. The news comes after he was recently re-elected despite several proxy firms seeking his removal.

Best Buy (NYSE:BBY) closed the day up more than 16 percent following news that Samsung (SSNLF.PK) will be opening its own mini-stores inside of the retailer, a strategy currently in use by Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL). Samsung will open as many as 500 locations starting on April 8 as part of its effort to take U.S. market share from Apple. Regardless of whether or not the new locations will increase sales — Samsung will offer first quarter guidance tomorrow — Wall Street seems to think that Best Buy will do nothing but profit from the presence of the two competitors in stores.

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Lululemon (NASDAQ:LULU) closed the day up 2.21 percent despite getting slapped with a downgrade from Outperform to Market Perform by RBC Capital. The firm lowered its price target on the stock from $80 to $70. The company also announced that Chief Product Officer Sheree Waterson will be leaving the company by April 15. Waterson is apparently taking flak for a recall in March that is expected to cost the company as much as $40 million.

Panera Bread (NASDAQ:PNRA) closed the day up 3.71 percent and hit an all-time intraday high after Goldman Sachs upgraded the stock from Neutral to Buy.

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March served up another heaping pile of disappointing jobs data on Friday morning. The employment situation report, issued by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, showed that the United States added just 88,000 non-farm payrolls for the month. This is less than half of consensus estimates for about 200,000 additions, and about a third of February’s upwardly-revised figure of 268,000.

DJIA: -0.28% to 14,565.20 S&P 500: -0.42% to 1,553.27 NASDAQ: -0.66% to 3,203.86
Gold: -$1.10 to $1,552.40 per ounce WTI Crude:  -0.28% to $93.00 per barrel U.S. 10-Year: -0.057 points to 1.707

The U.S. trade deficit unexpectedly shrank in February, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The U.S. International Trade In Goods and Services report, released on Friday morning, showed that the trade balance narrowed from -$44.4 billion in January to -$43.0 billion in February, beating out expectations for a widening of the gap to -$44.8 billion.

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Next week, President Barack Obama will propose changes to Social Security and other benefit programs when he releases his 2014 budget. The details are not due to be released until April 10, but a senior administration official confirmed some key points on Friday.

The proposal would cut the deficit by $1.8 trillion over 10 years, from an expected 5.5 percent of GDP this year to about 1.7 percent of GDP by 2023. This will be achieved by editing a mixture of federal inlays and outlays — such as ending certain tax provisions and implementing the sequestration spending cuts — and until recently afforded few GOP calls for entitlement cuts…

Here’s your Cheat Sheet to Friday’s top stock stories:

Hanesbrands (NYSE:HBI) climbed 3.81 percent after the company announced that it will initiate a quarterly dividend of $0.20 per share. Hanes Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Richard A. Noll commented in a statement: “Initiating a quarterly dividend is a substantial company milestone made possible by strong strategic execution, successful debt reduction and cash-flow generation, and margin-improvement prospects.”

Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ) closed down 1.48 percent on Friday. The company announced that chairman of the board Ray Lane and two other directors will step down. Lane commented: “After reflecting on the stockholder vote last month, I’ve decided to step down as executive chairman to reduce any distraction from HP’s ongoing turnaround.” (Read more.)

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F5 Networks (NASDAQ:FFIV) fell 19 percent after the networking company announced that second-quarter results are expected to come in below guidance. The company is now expecting revenue of $350.2 million instead of in a range between $370 and $380 million. Earnings are expected in a range between $0.79 to $0.80 per share, instead of in a range between $1.06 and $1.07 per share.

Disney (NYSE:DIS) will reportedly be laying off workers from its studio and consumer product divisions within the next two weeks. People with knowledge of the matter tell Reuters that the cuts will be focused in the marketing and home video units. This follows news that Disney will begin layoffs at the recently-acquired video-game arm of Lucas Film.

Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) stock climbed as much as 1 percent on Friday afternoon despite equivalent losses in the NASDAQ. With this as punctuation, shares of the social network are looking to log five-day gains of more than 6 percent, fueled by the launch of Facebook Home and buoyed by a bullish report on its mobile ad revenue prospects… (Read more.)

International Trade Commission Judge Thomas Pender has ruled in Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) favor over a key patented technology feature that Samsung (SSNLF.PK) infringed on by including it in its smartphones and tablets. However, the judge’s preliminary ruling regarding the patented text-selection feature must be reviewed and approved by a full ITC commission before the decision is enforceable… (Read more.)

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