Escalating violence in Ukraine and a warning from Russian President Vladimir Putin made investors wary heading into the weekend. That news Friday overshadowed a surprisingly strong report showing the economy created more jobs in April than it had in any month in more than two years.
On balance, though, the declines were small. The Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) fell 46 points less than 0.3 percent, while the Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GPSC) and the Nasdaq composite (^IXIC) each lost around 0.1 percent -- 2 points and 3 points, respectively.
Merck (MRK) was one of the big losers among the blue chips, down 2½ percent after stopping a clinical trial of a drug to treat ovarian cancer because it failed to live up to expectations.
Merck's partner in the research, Endocyte (ECYT), got clobbered. It lost 62 percent of its value on the news.
Staying with pharmaceuticals, Pfizer (PFE) lost more than 1 percent on word that Its sweetened, $106 billion offer for AstraZeneca (AZN) had been rejected. The British drug maker said the bid "substantially" undervalues the company.
Biotechs also had rough day. Gilead (GILD) and Regeneron (REGN) both lost about 2 percent, and Pharmacyclics (PCYC) dropped 7½ percent.
As for earnings, Wynn Resorts (WYNN) was a big winner. The stock gained 7 percent today and it's now up more than 60 percent over the past year. The company posted strong revenue from its casino operations in Macau.
Carpet maker Mohawk Industries (MHK) gained 6 percent as net topped expectations.
And Nutrisystems (NTRI) rose 8 percent, and the stock has nearly doubled in price from a year ago despite some weakness lately. It's been a good week for weight loss companies. Weight Watchers (WTW) surged on strong earnings Thursday.
On the downside:
Chevron (CVX), the nation's second largest oil company, edged lower as earnings and production fell.
LinkedIn (LNKD) slid 8 percent. It swung to a loss in the latest quarter from a profit a year ago.
Expedia (EXPE) dropped 3½ percent despite beating expectations and reporting a big jump in bookings.
After Market: Ukraine Strikes Back, Investors Duck for Cover
"Your daily habits and routines are the reason you got into this mess," writes Trent Hamm, founder of TheSimpleDollar.com. "Spend some time thinking about how you spend money each day, each week and each month." Do you really need your daily latte? Can you bring your lunch to work instead of buying it four times a week? Ask yourself: What can I change without sacrificing my lifestyle too much?
Remove all credit cards from your wallet and leave them at home when you go shopping, advises WiseBread contributor Sabah Karimi. “Even if you earn cash back or other rewards with credit card purchases, stop spending with your credit cards until you have your finances under control,” she writes.
If you do a lot of online shopping at one retailer, you may have stored your credit card information on the site to make the checkout process easier. But that also makes it easier to charge items you don't need. So clear that information. "If you’re paying for a recurring service, use a debit card issued from a major credit card service linked to your checking account," Hamm writes.
Reward yourself when you reach debt payoff goals. "The only way to completely pay off your credit card debt is to keep at it, and to do that, you must keep yourself motivated," Bakke writes. Just make sure to reward yourself within reason. For example, instead of a weeklong vacation, plan a weekend camping trip. "If you aim to reduce your credit card debt from $10,000 to $5,000 in two months," Bakke writes, "give yourself more than a pat on the back."
“Establish a budget,” writes Money Crashers contributor David Bakke. “If you don't scale back your spending, you'll dig yourself into a deeper hole." You can use personal finance tools like Mint.com, or make your own Excel spreadsheet that includes your monthly income and expenses. Then scrutinize those budget categories to see where you can cut costs.
Sort your credit card interest rates from highest to lowest, then tackle the card with the highest rate first. "By paying off the balance with the highest interest first, you increase your payment on the credit card with the highest annual percentage rate while continuing to make the minimum payment on the rest of your credit cards," writes Mint.com spokeswoman Hitha Prabhakar.
To make a dent in your debt, you need to pay more than the minimum balance on your credit card statements each month. "Paying the minimum -– usually 2 to 3 percent of the outstanding balance -– only prolongs a debt payoff strategy," Prabhakar writes. "Strengthen your commitment to pay everything off by making weekly, instead of monthly, payments." Or if your minimum payment is $100, try doubling it and paying off $200 or more.
If you have a high-interest card with a balance that you’re confident you can pay off in a few months, Hamm recommends moving the debt to a card that offers a zero-interest balance transfer. "You’ll need to pay off the debt before the balance transfer expires, or else you’re often hit with a much higher interest rate," he warns. "If you do it carefully, you can save hundreds on interest this way."
Have any birthday gifts or old wedding presents collecting dust in your closet? Look for items you can sell on eBay or Craigslist. "Do some research to make sure you list these items at a fair and reasonable price," Karimi writes. “Take quality photos, and write an attention-grabbing headline and description to sell the item as quickly as possible." Any profits from sales should go toward your debt.
If you receive a job bonus around the holidays or during the year, allocate that money toward your debt payoff plan. "Avoid the temptation to spend that bonus on a vacation or other luxury purchase," Karimi writes. It’s more important to fix your financial situation than own the latest designer bag.