Smartphone users will get a charge out of this, and GE has a bright idea. Those and more are what's making business news Tuesday.
The Dow industrials (^DJIA) rose 109 points. It's the fifth straight triple digit move for the Dow -- two up, three down. The S&P 500 (^GSPC) added 12 points and the Nasdaq (^IXIC) gained 28.
A big problem of modern life is keeping our smartphones charged through a whole day. Well, AT&T (T) may have the answer. It's powering up 25 outdoor solar charging stations throughout New York City today. It will have dedicated ports to charge iPhones, Androids and BlackBerrys. If the test goes well, it could be expanded to other cities.
General Electric (GE) says it's hiring thousands of engineers to build an "industrial Internet." The aim is to allow business customers to run equipment more efficiently, potentially saving them billions of dollars.
Facebook (FB) is holding press event later this week to unveil what it calls "a big idea." According to TechCrunch, Facebook will say its popular photo-sharing service Instagram will allow users to share short videos. That's similar to a service now offered by a unit of Twitter.
Two independent studies have found Medtronic's (MDT) product to improve the results from spinal surgery fared no better than traditional procedures. The lead author of one study said he could find no "clear indications" for using the Medtronic product.
We're watching shares of homebuilders Lennar (LEN), Toll Brothers (TOL), Pulte Homes (PHA) and D.R. Horton (DHI). They rallied yesterday and could be active again today following the release of Tuesday morning's report on housing starts. Even though the housing market has taken off, most of those stocks have underperformed the broader market this year.
Ford has been making cars through a fair number of cicada emergence cycles, and that's not going to change. Cars will naturally look materially different in 17 years; by then, it wouldn't be a shock to see self-driving cars in widespread use. Ford should continue to have a major role in the industry.
Naturally, there may be trends moving away from automobiles in general. The urbanization trend -- which features people flocking back to metropolitan areas where mass transit makes car ownership less important -- will likely continue. U.S. automakers may also continue to lose market share to overseas rivals.
However, it's hard to bet against Ford. Remember, Ford was the only major U.S. automaker to avoid the government's bailout in 2009, proving its mettle during tough times.
This pick will be controversial given the way that Apple's stock has been beaten down since peaking late last year. But the consumer tech giant is a survivor.
Since the last Brood II invasion we saw the iPod in 2001, the iPhone in 2007, and the iPad in 2010. Yes, Steve Jobs is gone, but denying Apple its historical bent to raise the bar in consumer electronics would be a costly mistake. Apple will find a way to innovate its way to growth and margin expansion.
Walmart's size endows it with pricing advantages that it passes on to its customers, giving the discount department store chain and edge that can't be matched. The future may find online retail and digital delivery eating into its share of some product categories. But at the end of the day, you don't bet against Walmart's ability to provide goods at prices that free shoppers to spend more on other things.
Despite remarkable changes in the world, some things have stayed constant from one cicada infestation to the next. Soap is still soap. Toilet paper is still toilet paper. Toothpaste is still toothpaste. And that probably won't change between now and 2030.
Procter & Gamble is home to large pantry of household brands that consumer know all too well. From Crest toothpaste to Bounty paper towels, it's hard to escape Procter & Gamble's reach. Some of its billion-dollar brands -- in other words, products that generate at least a billion dollars in annual sales -- include Pampers baby diapers, Duracell batteries, and Charmin toilet paper.
Its portfolio of products is so diversified that Procter & Gamble can weather the rare innovations that make a particular category obsolete. Along the way, patient investors get rewarded. Procter & Gamble has increased its dividend in each of the past 57 years.
The House of Mouse has been the undisputed champ of family entertainment for decades, but it's not something that Disney has taken for granted. Disney bought Capital Cities/ABC in 1995, a year before the last periodical cicada wave. It was a major purchase, and perhaps more for landing ESPN than ABC.
However, since the last Brood II emergence, the media giant has snapped up Pixar, Marvel, and most recently Lucasfilm to beef up its library of magnetic characters that it can build on through its cable properties, theme parks, and merchandising initiatives.
The way children consume media has evolved dramatically over the years, but digital media has presented new ways for Disney to cash in on the incessant appetite for family-friendly entertainment.
Besides, if there's a movie to be made that transforms cicadas into endearing insects in an animated theatrical release, it would be probably be Disney's handiwork.