Weekly Market Recap: Zuckerberg Speaks, Apple’s FaceTime Faces Off with Skype

Here’s your Cheat Sheet to the top stories on Wall Street this week:

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Monday

Markets closed mostly down on Wall Street today:   Dow -0.39%, S&P -0.61%, Nasdaq -1.03%,  Oil +0.16%, Gold -0.31%.

On the commodities front, Oil (NYSEARCA:USO) climbed to $98.41 a barrel. Precious metals dropped with Gold (NYSEARCA:GLD) falling to $1,732.20 an ounce, while  Silver (NYSEARCA:SLV) fell 1.01% to $33.35.

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

The U.S. Treasury Department has announced it will sell off the majority of its stake in AIG (NYSE:AIG) in an $18 billion offering later this month. The sale will cut the government’s stake from 53 percent to 20 percent, making it a minority investor in the world’s largest insurer for the first time since it rescued the company four years ago at the height of the global financial crisis. AIG said it plans to buy back $5 billion of shares being offered.

Hot Feature: Is Treasury’s AIG Sale Just Some More Political Maneuvering Ahead of Election 2012?

Recent estimates put the cost of production of General Motors’ (NYSE:GM) Chevrolet Volt at $89,000. That’s a loss of $49,000 on each unit sold at a hefty price tag of $39,995. With an estimated $1.2 billion spent on development, which does not include marketing costs, it could be years before GM starts seeing green on its hybrid. With Honda (NYSE:HMC), Ford (NYSE:F), and the hybrid-dominant Toyota (NYSE:TM) stepping up competition in the same market, even the second-generation Volt could be a failure. GM disputes the estimates, saying it allocates Volt development cost over lifetime volume, not across the current quantity sold.

The latest 10-Q by H-P (NYSE:HPQ) reveals the company plans to cut 29,000 jobs by the end of FY14 as a part of its restructuring and may incur charges of $3.7 billion related thereto. The company has more than 349,000 employees on its rolls.

Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) is now accepting pre-orders for the $499 8.3-inch 4G enabled HD Kindle Fire, which is meant to challenge Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPad at the premium end of the market. The new Fire is expected to ship on November 20, except that the device hasn’t actually been approved by the Federal Communications Commission yet. The approval is most likely related specifically to the device’s 4G modem, but is not expected to delay the shipment.

Tuesday

Markets closed up today on Wall Street: Dow +0.52%, S&P +0.31%, Nasdaq +0.02%, Oil +0.49%, Gold +0.12%.

On the commodities front, Oil (NYSE:USO) is at $97.00 a barrel. Precious metals were mixed as Gold (NYSE:GLD) climbed to $1,734.20 per ounce, while Silver fell 0.35% to $33.51.

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

McDonald’s (NYSE:MCD) will be opening up two vegetarian restaurants in India next year. The company has seen success localizing its international brand in China, Mexico, Israel, and France, and India seems to be next on the list. McDonald’s stands to profit on the country’s millions of vegetarians if its efforts are successful.

INVESTING INSIGHTS: Here’s How Weight-Loss Treatments are Boosting These Stocks.

The government and the Fed will make a $12.4 billion minimum profit from the $182.3 billion AIG (NYSE:AIG) bailout after the Treasury on Monday raised $18 billion after agreeing to sell 554 million shares at $32.50 each; AIG will buy about $5 billion. The government still owns a 21.5 per share in AIG and could an even greater return.

Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MS) won a victory after the consultant Perella Weinberg valued Morgan Stanley Smith Barney below $15 billion, reported the NYPost. Morgan Stanley’s had $9 billion valuation for brokerage vs. Citigroup’s $22 billion estimate. Morgan Stanley owns 51 percent of Smith Barney and Citigroup (NYSE:C) has balance. Morgan Stanley will exercise its right to purchase an additional 14 percent and was interested in paying a little as possible.

It’s no secret that a lot of banks have seen a lot of red recently. A new report from Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) suggests that ‘Plan B’ action is needed by most big banks in order to turn around returns. The report recommends action for Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, Bank of America (NYSE:BAC), Regions Financial (NYSE:RF), Zions Bancorp (NASDAQ:ZION), and KeyCorp (NYSE:KEY).

Wednesday

Markets closed mostly up today on Wall Street: S&P +0.21%, Nasdaq +0.31%, Dow +0.07%, Oil -0.34%, and  Gold -0.02%.

On the commodities front, Oil (NYSEARCA:USO) moves to $98.62 a barrel. In precious metals, Gold (NYSEARCA:GLD) stayed steady at $1,734.90 an ounce, and Silver (NYSEARCA:SLV) fell 0.75% to $33.31.

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

Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) has finally unveiled the long-awaited iPhone 5, featuring a taller screen, thinner and lighter body, and 4G wireless compatibility. The new smartphone, launched by senior vice president of worldwide marketing, Phil Schiller, at the company’s media event in San Francisco, has a screen display that measures 4 inches diagonally and features five rows of icons, plus the four shortcuts on the bottom.

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The device is calibrated to run on the faster LTE wireless technology and will support the networks of Sprint (NYSE:S), AT&T (NYSE:T), and Verizon (NYSE:VZ) in the U.S. and several others in Europe and Asia. However, it does not support either near-field communications or micro-USB compatibility.

To the elation of investors, the 500 billion-euro ($638.8 billion) taxpayer-backed European Stability Mechanism was passed through Germany’s highest court on Wednesday. This brings Germany’s stake in the 700 billion euro overall European bailout effort to 27 percent. Markets in Europe and the United States rallied behind the news.

Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) CEO Mark Zuckerberg took the stage at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference on Tuesday, speaking in public for the first time since the IPO. On his company’s stock: “Its performance has obviously been disappointing.” Heading into the future: “The big question is how well we do with mobile.” Facebook shares soared 7.73 percent today.

Though trials for Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) and Johnson & Johnson’s (NYSE:JNJ) new Alzheimer’s drug bapineuzumab were halted at the end of August for failing to slow cognitive decline, a new study has shown that the experimental drug could reduce physical damage in the brain.

Many in the medical field believe that trial results so far have been weak. However, with positive results from upcoming trials, drugs that slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease could create a $20 billion market, according to Deutsche Bank analyst Barbara Ryan in a June note to clients.

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Thursday

Markets closed way up on Wall Street today: S&P +1.63%, Nasdaq +1.33%, Dow +1.55%, Oil +0.89%, Gold +1.97%.

On the commodities front, Oil (NYSEARCA:USO) is up to $98.95 a barrel. Precious metals are also up, with Gold (NYSEARCA:GLD) soaring to $1,768.00 an ounce, and Silver (NYSEARCA:SLV) up 4.18 percent to $34.62.

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

Today’s the day Ben Bernanke grabs the American economy by the collar and tells it to buck up. At least, that’s what quantitative easing round 3 will try to do. In QE3, the Federal Reserve has announced that it will be buying $40 billion in mortgage-backed securities every month until the labor market “improves substantially.” The funds rate will remain unchanged at “exceptionally low levels” until mid-2015.

Don’t Miss: QE3: Here’s Your Inside Scoop.

What’s drawing a lot of attention is that the Fed seems to be willing to indefinitely extend QE3 “if the outlook for the labor market does not improve substantially.” So far, there doesn’t seem to be any metric which will determine when substantial improvement has been met.

General Electric (NYSE:GE) Chief Executive and Chair of President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness Jeff Immelt gave a positive assessment of the U.S. economy to those present at Wednesday night’s speech at West Virginia University in Morgantown.

“The U.S. economy, after a deep recession, gets a little bit better every day,” said the professed Republican. “We’re just in a slow steady climb out.” As to the rest of the world, Immelt said the European economy has remained tough but not “bad enough to really offset global momentum,” and that he expects solid growth in China.

Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) video conferencing software FaceTime, previously tethered to a Wi-Fi connection, is now open to cellular networks. FaceTime will challenge Microsoft’s (NASDAQ:MSFT) recent acquisition, Skype. FaceTime seamlessly integrates into the Apple ecosystem, but it’s stuck there. Users can only call other FaceTime users. Skype, on the other hand, is growing its membership by 40 percent every year. With Windows Phone 8 making a push into the mobile market, built-in Skype could make the Microsoft OS more appealing than the Apple OS.

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Friday

Markets closed up today on Wall Street: S&P +0.40%,  Nasdaq +0.89%, Dow +0.63%, Oil +0.64%,  Gold +0.07%.

On the commodities front, Oil (NYSEARCA:USO) tips to $99 a barrel after breaking $100 earlier in the day. Precious metals were mixed with Gold (NYSEARCA:GLD) up to $1,774.20 per ounce, and  Silver (NYSEARCA:SLV) down just a fraction to $34.72.

Here’s your Cheat Sheet to today’s top stories:

It’s been a good week for Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and it looks to be ending on top after shares of the company touched a new record high on Friday. The stock was up 1.50 percent at $693.30 in the afternoon after having reached an all-time intraday high of $696.98 earlier. Through Thursday, the stock is up 69 percent this year.

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Peter Schiff, chief executive officer of Euro Pacific Capital, recently gave an interview discussing the prospects of gold. When asked how high the price of gold may reach, he responded that there is no ceiling for the precious metal, because there is no limit on how much money will be printed. The Federal Reserve’s latest announcement confirms this theory, and paves the way for much higher gold and silver prices.

Johnson & Johnson’s (NYSE:JNJ) 2nd Quarter earnings were less than impressive, but expected.  J&J’s revenue dropped 0.4% quarter over quarter to $16.6 billion with net income dropping a whopping 49% to $1.4 billion.  Despite these dismal numbers, the company came in at EPS of $1.30, slightly beating analyst estimates of $1.29.

To complete the gloom, J&J lowered its full year 2012 guidance to a range of $5.0 to $5.07 per share from the previous range of $5.07 to $5.17.  A sympathetic Wall Street bought the company’s rationale of weakening European economies and after a brief drop, the share price recovered.  Year to date JNJ shares are up 6.39%. We analyzed the stock with our CHEAT SHEET investing framework.

The mobile space is as crazy as ever. With the announcement of the iPhone 5, there are now three phones at the “top” of the market: The iPhone 5, the Samsung Galaxy S3, and the Nokia (NYSE:NOK) Lumia 920. Supporting them are three different operating platforms: iOS 6, Google’s (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android 4.0, and  Microsoft’s (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows Phone 8, respectively. We unpacked what this battle of the brands looks like.

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