The bulls outran the bears in the final hour of trading Friday, allowing the major stock indexes to snap their two-day losing streaks. Economic data was mixed. The headline on the housing front was good -- housing starts rose to their highest level in five months. But multi-family homes drove those construction gains, suggesting rentals will dominate and buyers will remain scarce. Another downer for the markets -- consumer sentiment slipped in May.
Nevertheless, when all was said and done the Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) rose 44 points and the Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GPSC) gained 7, about 0.3 percent each, while the Nasdaq composite (^IXIC) added 21 points, more than 0.5 percent.
Among the stocks to watch: General Motors (GM). Its shares closed slightly lower despite being hit with another fine. It agreed to pay $35 million on top of the roughly $1.5 billion it has already put aside to settle charges related to its ignition switch recall.
And Pfizer (PFE) was up fractionally -- about 0.2 percent, on news that it has jumped another hurdle on the path to getting FDA approval for its experimental breast cancer drug, Palbociclib.
Verizon (VZ) got a boost from an endorsement from superstar investor Warren Buffett. Its stock rose more than 2 percent. A regulatory filing revealed his Berkshire Hathaway (BRK-A) bought 11 million shares of the telecom giant.
Darden Restaurants (DRI) didn't have such a good day. Its stock fell more than 4 percent after it agreed to sell its struggling Red Lobster chain to Golden Gate Capital for $2.1 billion.
And among retailers, there were a few standouts: J.C. Penney (JCP) had a stellar day. Its stock was up more than 16 percent. Sales beat expectations and its quarterly loss was lower than anticipated. It got the thumbs up from at least six brokerages that raised their price targets on the stock. Over the past year, though, the stock is down almost 50 percent.
Nordstrom (JWN) was also en vogue on Friday. Shares were up more than 14 percent after it beat the Street's estimates on earnings.
Other than that, it was a light day for earnings. More than 90 percent of S&P 500 companies have handed in their report cards for the first quarter. The vast majority have beaten expectations.
Finally, this could be a buzz kill for those investing in legal marijuana stocks. The Securities and Exchange Commission issued an alert Friday warning of the high potential for fraud, and put investments in them in the same category as bitcoin and other digital currencies. The bottom line: Think twice before you light up on pot stocks.
What to Watch Monday:
These major companies are scheduled to report quarterly financial results:
After Market: A Mixed Bag of Economic Reports Lifts Stocks
Have you ever heard of the 30-day rule? As a frugal guy, this is one of my favorite rules in spending. If you’re about to spend any more than $20 on something that is unnecessary, don’t. Instead, put the item down and wait 30 days to buy it. You’ll be amazed at how much money you save by not making unnecessary frivolous purchases.
I literally mean freeze your credit cards. It seems a bit extreme, but think of it this way. The average credit card comes with a 13 percent or higher interest rate. By simply not using credit cards as often, you’ll save a ton. So, get a plastic sandwich bag and put your credit cards in it. Fill it with water, zip it up and throw it in the freezer. Without easy access to those tempting pieces of plastic, you probably won’t use them as much. However, they’ll still be around -- in an emergency, you can retrieve them from the ice.
Have you ever looked around your house, seen a few items and thought, “I could have made that!” You probably could have. The only thing is, you didn’t. Instead you paid for it. From now on, before you buy something you think you can make on your own, give it a shot. I saved a little over a hundred bucks about two weeks ago. I needed a new bird cage for my fiancé’s doves. Instead of buying a cage for $200, I made one that was far bigger for less than $80.
Did you know that a clean air filter in your car can lead to 7 percent more fuel efficiency? That means at current gas prices, with a clean air filter, you’ll save about $100 a year, if you drive the average 10,000 miles.
How often on the way home from the office do you want to stop for a convenient quick meal? You’ve had a long day, and it feels justified. But it costs much more than a home-cooked meal. The answer is your slow cooker. Use it to prepare your meal in the morning on days you know will be rough. This way, you can skip the fast food and rush home to an already ready home-cooked meal.
Do you pay a maintenance fee for your bank account? Why? Tons of banks offer checking and savings accounts without them. Look to your local credit union or even switch to an online bank. When comparing your options, also look at the interest you can earn. Currently, I get about 3 percent on checking and about 3.4 percent on savings, but who knows what kind of great deals you can find?
I’ve had tons of options to sign up for customer rewards programs and I was just too busy. So, I didn’t sign up. Then one day, I realized that I was paying for rewards I wasn’t getting. The cost of the rewards obviously trickles down to the end consumer. So, if the end consumer doesn’t take part, he or she loses money in the process. Since I’ve signed up for every reward program around me, I’ve saved at least 20 or 30 bucks a month in rewards.