Top Stock Stories of the Week: AP Fake Tweet and Much More

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

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Monday

The markets closed up on Monday, although the Dow spent most of the morning in negative territory. Earnings continue to be a main driver as the season continues, but housing data stole the spotlight.

DJIA: +0.14% to 14,567.20 S&P 500: +0.47% to 1,562.50 NASDAQ: +0.86% to 3,233.55
Gold: +$29.90 to $1,425.50 per ounce Oil: +1.19% to $89.32 per barrel U.S. 10-Year: -0.010 points to 1.695%

Total existing home sales — defined as completed transactions involving single-family homes, town homes, condominiums, and co-ops — declined 0.6 percent on the month to a seasonally-adjusted annualized rate of 4.92 million in March. February’s annualized rate was downwardly revised to 4.95 million. That said, March’s rate was 10.3 percent higher than the year-ago period. Sales have no been above year-ago levels for 21 consecutive months… (Read more.)

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The Chicago Fed National Activity Index, a monthly gauge designed to measure overall economic activity and related inflationary pressure, fell to -0.23 in March. A negative reading like this indicates that national economic activity has fallen below its historic trend. March’s results helped pull the three-month average down from 0.12 to -0.01… (Read more.)

Italian lawmakers elected President Giorgio Napolitano to a second term in office on Saturday. Markets reacted favorably with Milan’s FTSE MIB index climbing as much as 1.9 percent. Observers are hopeful that President Napolitano will be able to preside over a broadly-based coalition government that will heal Italy’s fractious parliament. His election was supported by both the main center-left and center-right parties.

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

Caterpillar (NYSE:CAT) closed the day up 2.83 percent, despite a disappointing first-quarter report. Earnings fell 44.7 percent to $1.31 per share, below estimates for $1.40. Revenue fell 17.3 percent to $13.21 billion, below estimates for $13.7 billion. The company also revised its 2013 outlook “to reflect sales and revenues in a range of $57 to $61 billion, with profit per share of about $7.00 at the middle of the sales and revenues outlook range. The previous outlook for 2013 sales and revenues was a range of $60 to $68 billion and profit per share of $7.00 to $9.00.” (Read more.)

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Elan Corp. (NYSE:ELN) has unanimously rejected the $11.25 per-share acquisition offer submitted by Royalty Pharma. Chairman Robert Ingram commented that the offer “grossly undervalues Elan’s current business platform and our future prospects.” Shares closed the day up 0.59 percent.

Halliburton (NYSE:HAL) closed the day up 5.6 percent. The company reported that revenue climbed 1.54 percent on the year to $6.97 billion, ahead of estimates for $6.88 billion. Earnings declined 24.72 percent to $0.67 per share, but still beat the mean analyst estimate of $0.57… (Read more.)

Boeing (NYSE:BA) closed the day down 1.16 percent. The company announced recently that the new battery system for its 787 Dreamliner has been approved by the Federal Aviation Administration, and that it has begun the process of installing the new system.

News Corp. (NASDAQ:NWS)(NASDAQ:NWSA) closed the day up 1.41 percent. The media company announced that it has settled with investors over allegations of ignoring illegal conduct.

Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) closed the day up 6.73 percent and climbed as much as 24 percent in post-market trading after reporting earnings. Revenue increased 17.7 percent to $1.024 billion, in line with estimates. The company added more than 3 million streaming members, bringing it up to 36 million total.

Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) closed the day up 3.58 percent. The tech giant surged after activist-investor ValueAct Capital revealed a $2 billion stake in the company, or about 67 million shares.

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Tuesday

While stocks plunged briefly on a fake tweet from the Associated Press — which claimed that an explosion had rattled the White House and injured President Obama — all three major indexes ended the day in the green, buoyed up by strong earnings and the release of positive new home sales figures for March.

At the close:

DJIA:+1.05% to 14,719.46 S&P 500:+1.04% to 1,578.78 NASDAQ:+1.11% to 3,269.33
Gold: -$6.40 to $1,414.60 per ounce Oil: +0.27% to $89.43 per barrel U.S. 10-Year: +0.014 points to 1.707%

The Federal Reserve’s beige book report on current economic conditions, released at the end of last week, noted that retail sales may be poised to make a comeback. The Central Bank stated that “looking ahead, retailers in several Districts expect modest sales growth in the near term.” However, Tuesday’s snapshot of the retail sector — provided by the International Council of Shopping Centers and Goldman Sachs Retail Chain Store Sales Index and Redbook — did not provide much evidence of that prediction…(Read more.)

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Battle lines have been drawn between brick-and-mortar retailers and their online competitors. On Monday, 74 senators voted to limit debate on a measure that would allow U.S. states to require out-of-state retailers to collect online sales tax, and could hold a vote as early as Wednesday. Significantly, the White House publicly backed the measure. Obama may be interested in supporting the measure because it broadens the tax base at a time when many states are strapped for cash… (Read more.)

The debate over firearms has ignited a wave of emotions and political rhetoric over the past several months, but investors in gun-related stocks appear to have steady hands.Earlier this year, President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden rolled out a wide-ranging list of executive actions regarding gun control. Obama also called on Congress to expand background checks on all gun sales, ban military-style assault weapons, and ban capacities of more than 10 rounds. After months of discussions and finger pointing, Congress did not answer Obama’s call. A bill aimed at expanding the system of background checks failed in the Senate last week. It received only 54 votes, six votes short of the 60 needed to advance… (Read more.)

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

Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) reported first-quarter results at 2 p.m. Pacific Time on Tuesday that were slightly better than analysts had predicted. Breaking down the results in simple terms, the iPhone maker posted earnings per share of $10.09 on a revenue of $43.6 billion, compared to earnings per share of $12.30 on a revenue of $39.2 billion reported in the year-ago quarter. While earnings per share declined on a year-over-year basis, the company’s first quarter financials beat top-line and bottom line expectations. The average estimate held by analysts called for Apple to report adjusted earnings of $10 share on revenue of $42.4 billion.

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Despite gains in these two important business — smartphones and wireless data, AT&T’s (NYSE:T) revenue fell short of expectations. Coming in at $31.4 billion, revenue was down 1.5 percent compared with the first quarter last year and slightly short of the consensus estimate. On an adjusted basis, the company reported earnings of 64 cents per share, which represented an 8.5 percent increase from the year-ago period. These results were in line with expectations. In after-hours trading, shares fell as much as 2.44 percent to $38.05 after earnings were released.

The annual proxy statement filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission Monday gave an interesting view into how Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) conducted its investigation into bribery allegations last year. The retailer stated that it had paid the members of its board’s audit committee more in 2012 than in the previous year because of the extra work created by the foreign bribery probe.

After years of woes — including eroding market share, decreasing profit margins, and the downgrade of its corporate bonds to junk status in 2005 — Ford (NYSE:F) may be finally standing at the beginning of a new chapter in its history. With analysts predicting that the second largest U.S. automaker will post its highest first quarter North American profit ever, the company’s comeback appears to be gaining momentum.

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Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) soared as much as 24 percent on Tuesday after the video-streaming subscription service reported first-quarter results that blew the socks of investors and analysts alike. To put it lightly, the stock has been on a tear over the past 52-week period. Including Tuesday’s gains, shares are up more than 111 percent year over year. The stock is finally closing back in on all-time highs hit in July of 2011. But it’s not all sunshine and happiness at the company. Michael Pachter, an analyst at Wedbush Securities with an Underperform rating on the stock, suggests that as many as 10 million people are using the service without paying. This, of course, is bad for business

Federally insured financial institutions that relied on ratings assigned by McGraw-Hill’s (NYSE:MHP) Standard & Poor’s suffered huge losses during the financial crisis, and during its aftermath, the Justice Department has attempted to prove that the company’s mortgage-backed securities ratings were fraudulent. Now, S&P — the largest rating company in the United States — must file its response to the claims in federal court in by Tuesday, which will be the rating firm’s first attempt at fighting off the Justice Department’s allegations.

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Wednesday

Mixed earnings led to mixed markets on Wednesday. Data compiled by Bloomberg show that 73 percent of the S&P 500 companies that have reported so far this season have exceeded analyst expectations. However, the data also show that earnings dropped 1.1 percent in the first quarter, which marks the first year-on-year decline since 2009.

DJIA: -0.29% to 14,676.30 S&P 500: +0.00% to 1,578.79 NASDAQ: +0.01% to 3,269.65
Gold: +$15.50 to $1,430.40 per ounce Oil: +$2.42 to $91.60 per barrel U.S. 10-Year: -0.005 points to 1.700%

Low Interest Rates Are Still Juicing the Housing Market: The housing recovery is heavily dependent on low interest rates induced by the Federal Reserve, but mortgage applications continue to slowly grind higher. According to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s latest report for the week ending April 19, loan application volume edged 0.2 percent higher on a seasonally adjusted basis from one week earlier. This comes after a 4.8 percent increase. These figures include both refinancing and home purchase demand, and covers over 75 percent of all domestic retail residential mortgage applications… (Read more.)

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U.S. Manufacturing Takes a Hit: Data show that orders for U.S. durable goods fell in March by the most in seven months as demand for commercial aircraft slumped and business investment declined. Bookings for goods meant to last at least three years fell 5.7 percent compared to last month’s 4.3 percent gain. Analysts polled by Bloomberg had expected a much smaller decline, with the median forecast calling for a 3 percent decline. Contributing to the much lower results was an unexpected drop of 1.7 percent in orders excluding transportation equipment… (Read more.)

Gasoline Prices Trend Lower Even As Demand Rises: The Energy Information Administration released the petroleum report for the week ended April 19 today. U.S. crude oil refinery inputs averaged 14.5 million barrels per day (“bpd”), 586,000 bpd below the previous week’s average. At 388.6 million barrels, U.S. crude oil inventories are well above the upper limit of the average range for this time of year. Total motor gasoline inventories decreased by 3.9 million barrels last week but remained in the upper half of the average range… (Read more.)

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

Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) closed the day down 0.16 percent, which is about as calm a reaction to the company’s second-quarter earnings that Mr. Market could have hoped for. Revenue increased 11.27 percent on the year to $43.6 billion, beating the average estimate of $42.59 billion. Adjusted earnings decreased 17.97 percent to $10.09 per share, beating the average estimate of $10.07 per share. The company also announced a 15 percent dividend hike and a $50 billion addition to its $10 billion share buyback program. However, gross margin shrank 9.9 points to 37.5 percent, triggering at least one downgrade… (Read more.)

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Ford (NYSE:F) closed the day down 0.22 percent after it reported its best quarter in more than a decade. Revenue increased 4.48 percent on the year to $33.9 billion, beating estimates for $33.74 billion. Adjusted earnings increased 5.13 percent to $0.41 per share, beating estimates for $0.38 per share… (Read more.)

Corning (NYSE:GLW) closed the day up 5.48 percent after reporting earnings. Revenue decreased 5.52 percent on the year to $1.81 billion, missing estimates for $1.96 billion. Adjusted earnings were flat at $0.03 per share, beating the average estimate of $0.24 per share… (Read more.)

Boyd Gaming (NYSE:BYD) closed the day up 22.68 percent after surprising Mr. Market with positive earnings. Adjusted earnings decreased 90 percent on the year to $0.01, which beat expectations for a loss of $0.07 per share. Revenue increased 16.4 percent to $736.9 million… (Read more.)

Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) closed the day down 0.14 percent after reporting first-quarter earnings. The company reported a net loss of $0.21 per share, which was not as bad as the $0.32 per-share loss that analysts were expecting. However, Sprint reported that it lost 560,000 retail postpaid subscribers in the quarter, above expectations for a loss of 512,000. Total wireless net losses came to 415,000… (Read more.)

Barrick Gold (NYSE:ABX) closed the day up 7.5 percent after reporting first-quarter earnings. Revenues decreased 5.68 percent to $3.44 billion, missing the average estimate of $3.56 billion. Adjusted earnings decreased 15.60 percent to $0.92 per share, coming in ahead of estimates for $0.91 per share… (Read more.)

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Boeing (NYSE:BA) stock closed the day up 3.01 percent after announcing strong first-quarter results. Revenues decreased 2.53 percent on the year to $18.89 billion, but still beat the average analyst estimate of $18.84 billion. Adjusted earnings increased 41.8 percent on the year to $1.73 per share, ahead of the average estimate of $1.48 per share… (Read more.)

Proctor & Gamble (NYSE:PG) closed the day down 5.88 percent after reporting fiscal third-quarter results. Revenue climbed 2 percent on the year to $20.6 billion, missing the average analyst estimate of $20.74 billion. Adjusted earnings increased 5.32 percent to $0.99 per share, beating the average estimate of $0.96 per share… (Read more.)

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Thursday

The markets closed up on Thursday.

DJIA: +0.17% to 14,700.80 S&P 500: +0.40% to 1,585.16 NASDAQ: +0.62% to 3,289.99
Gold: +$38.30 to 1,462.00 per ounce Oil: +2.13% to $93.38 per barrel U.S. 10-Year: +0.001 points 1.706%

Is The U.S. Economy Finally Creating Jobs? Between the Labor Department’s Employment Situation Report — which showed that the U.S. economy created a disappointing 88,000 jobs in March — and the number of Americans applying for jobless benefits picking up pace throughout the month, a dark cloud has been hanging over the labor market. But — amid the current run of soft economic data — the Labor Department reported Thursday that last week initial claims for unemployment benefits fell to a five-year low, a possible indication that employers are experiencing higher demand and may increase hiring… (Read more.)

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Will the U.S. Become a Natural Gas Exporter? Thursday’s weekly report on United States natural gas stockpiles, released by the Energy Information Administration, contained no surprises: inventories rose by 30 billion cubic feet last week, well within the range of 27 to 31 billion feet expected by analysts. Ahead of the announcement, natural gas futures prices were up approximately 2.2 percent, at $4.19 per million British thermal units, but fell slightly to $4.17 immediately following the report… (Read more.)

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

Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) closed the day up 2.2 percent but fell as much as 2 percent in post-market trading. The company provided a lower-than-expected forecast for the second quarter, although first-quarter performance beat estimates. Sales climbed 22 percent to $16.07 billion. Net income decreased 37 percent to $0.18 per share.

Verizon (NYSE:VZ) has reportedly hired advisers to help prepare a $100 billion cash-and-stock bid for Vodafone’s (NASDAQ:VOD) 45 percent stake in Verizon Wireless. Two people familiar with the matter tell Reuters that Verizon is still building the proposal, but could aggressively push the deal as soon as it is put together. Verizon stock was up about 1.1 percent in pre-market trading, while Vodafone was up about 3.8 percent.

Samsung (SSNLF.PK) attracted some attention when Lee Don Joo, president of the strategic marketing office at Samsung Mobile, said that “pre-order demand [for the Galaxy S4] is much strong than expected, so it’s difficult to rapidly boost supply in the short term.”

Exxon Mobil (NYSE:XOM) closed the day down 1.52 percent. The company’s widening chemical margins made up for lower crude production and prices, and it reported Thursday that net income rose for the first quarter. Profit increased to $9.5 billion, or $2.12 per share, from the $9.45 billion, or $2.00 per share, reported a year earlier. Based on the average analysts’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg, Exxon was expected to report pre-share net income of $2.05… (Read more.)

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Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX) closed the day up 1.12 percent but fell 2.55 percent after the markets closed. The company raised its outlook for the year, but missed analyst expectations.

QUALCOMM (NASDAQ:QCOM) reported strong fiscal second-quarter results on Wednesday after the closing bell, but issued a relatively weak guidance that had the stock down 5.39 percent at Thursday’s close. Fiscal second-quarter revenue increased 23.89 percent to $6.12 billion, beating the average estimate of $6.07 billion. Adjusted earnings increased 15.84 percent to $1.17 per share, beating estimates for $1.16 per share. The company expects full-year earnings in a range between $4.40 and $4.55 per share, on the lower end of expectations for $4.54 per share.

Cliffs Natural Resources (NYSE:CLF) closed the day up 14.98 percent. The company reported that revenue decreased 9.78 percent to $1.14 billion, below estimates for $1.19 billion. Adjusted earnings decreased 29.41 percent to $0.60 per share, beating the mean estimate of $0.32 per share.

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Friday

Mixed earnings made for mixed markets most week. Investors seemed keen to turn their collars up against economic headwinds from both the U.S. and Europe and keep equities in focus, with a number of big names reporting.

DJIA: +0.08% to 14,712.50 S&P 500: -0.18% to 1,582.24 NASDAQ: -0.33% to 3,279.26
Gold: -$8.40 to $1,453.60 per ounce Oil: -0.95% to $92.75 U.S. 10-Year: -0.045 points to 1.664%

Here’s how the markets traded this week:

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S&P 500 Index Chart - Yahoo! Finance

U.S. GDP Advances Less Than Expected in the First Quarter: Preliminary data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis show that real gross domestic product increased at an annual rate of 2.5 percent in the first quarter of 2013. This compares to a 0.4 percent increase in the fourth-quarter, and falls short of expectations for 3.1 percent growth… (Read more.)

Is The U.S. Economy Finally Creating Jobs? Between the Labor Department’s Employment Situation Report — which showed that the U.S. economy created a disappointing 88,000 jobs in March — and the number of Americans applying for jobless benefits picking up pace throughout the month, a dark cloud has been hanging over the labor market. But — amid the current run of soft economic data — the Labor Department reported Thursday that last week initial claims for unemployment benefits fell to a five-year low, a possible indication that employers are experiencing higher demand and may increase hiring… (Read more.)

European Downturn Remains In Focus: The flash Markit Eurozone PMI reading for April remained flat at 46.5, indicating that the region’s economy is stuck in contraction. The services index edged up slightly to 46.6, still in contraction but also a two-month high. The manufacturing index dropped to 46.5, a four-month low. Markit Chief Economist Chris Williamson commented: “Although the PMI was unchanged in April, the survey is signalling a worrying weakness in the economy at the start of the second quarter, with signs that the downturn is more likely to intensify further in coming months rather than ease.”

On top of this, the flash reading for the German Composite Output Index fell to 48.8, a six-month low indicating contraction in the region’s largest economy.

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

Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) fell more than 7 percent on Friday to close the week down with a net loss of about 1.5 percent. The company’s stock climbed through Thursday on a series of minor catalysts and positive earnings expectations, but collapsed after the results came in. Revenue increased 21.88 percent on the year to $16.07 billion, missing the average estimate of $16.16 billion. Adjusted earnings decreased 35.71 percent to $0.18 per share, beating estimates for $0.09… (Read more.)

Verizon (NYSE:VZ) closed the week up just over 3 percent. There is speculation that the company is looking to buyout Vodafone’s (NASDAQ:VOD) 45 percent stake in Verizon Wireless… (Read more.)

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Samsung (SSNLF.PK) attracted some attention when Lee Don Joo, president of the strategic marketing office at Samsung Mobile, said that “pre-order demand [for the Galaxy S4] is much strong than expected, so it’s difficult to rapidly boost supply in the short term.” The company also reported that first-quarter net income climbed 42 percent on the year to 7.2 trillion won ($6.5 billion) thanks to strong smartphone sales. Net sales climbed 17 percent to 52.9 trillion won ($47.5 billion).

J.C. Penney (NYSE:JCP) closed the week up more than 9 percent after George Soros disclosed a 7.9 percent passive stake in the beleaguered retailer. Soros joins a number of other well-known hedge-funds with major stakes in the company, such as Bill Ackman’s Pershing Square, which owns about 17.8 percent of the stock… (Read more.)

Elan Corp. (NYSE:ELN) has unanimously rejected the $11.25 per-share acquisition offer submitted by Royalty Pharma. Chairman Robert Ingram commented that the offer “grossly undervalues Elan’s current business platform and our future prospects.” Shares closed the week down 1.4 percent.

Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) closed the week up nearly 28 percent after reporting strong earnings. Revenue climbed 17.73 percent to $1.02 billion, in line with expectations. Earnings climbed from a loss of $0.08 per share in the year-ago period to a gain of $0.31, way ahead of the average estimate of $0.18. The company signed up 2.03 million new U.S. streaming subscribers to end the quarter with 29.17 million domestic subscribers.

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Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) closed the week up just over 6 percent after reporting earnings. Revenue increased 11.27 percent on the year to $43.6 billion, beating the average estimate of $42.59 billion. Adjusted earnings decreased 17.97 percent to $10.09 per share, beating the average estimate of $10.07 per share. The company also announced a 15 percent dividend hike and a $50 billion addition to its $10 billion share buyback program. However, gross margin shrank 9.9 points to 37.5 percent

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