Here’s your Cheat Sheet to this week’s top stories:
The U.S. equity markets gave up early gains to close the day deep in red territory. Political concerns and lingering uncertainty surrounding the upcoming sequestration deadline weighed on investor sentiment, while the VIX surged from 14.17 to 18.99.
At the close: DJIA: -1.55%, S&P 500: -1.83%, NASDAQ: -1.44%.
On the commodities front, WTI crude (NYSEARCA:USO) for April delivery lost 2 cents, dropping to $93.11 per barrel. Brent for April delivery climbed 34 cents to $114.44 per barrel.
Gold (NYSEARCA:GLD) futures for April delivery, the most active contract, gained $13.80 to settle at $1,586.60 per ounce, while silver (NYSEARCA:SLV) futures for March jumped 53 cents to close at $28.99.
Both precious metals rallied, despite hedge funds cutting bullish bets on gold by the most in about five years. According to U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission data, money managers and other large speculators decreased net-long positions in gold contracts and options by 40 percent.
The Italian election appears to be providing support for gold and silver, as exit polls raised fears that the country may not have a stable government. Projections show former Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s center-right party ahead in the Senate, which could threaten austerity measures and bring the euro zone financial crisis back into focus. Earlier readings had Pier Luigi Bersani’s center-left party leading the field. The fiasco was a primary contributor to the broad decline in markets today.
General Motors (NYSE:GM) announced “a broad global strategy to deliver a new generation of connected cars and trucks with embedded 4G LTE mobile broadband, the largest deployment in the automotive industry to date.” The nation’s largest car manufacturer will be partnering with AT&T (NYSE:T) in the venture, as opposed to Verizon (NYSE:VZ)… (Read more.)
Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ) has stolen the spotlight recently with its tepidly successful turnaround story in full swing, but some investors are clearly unhappy with the progress to date. Twenty of the company’s biggest shareholders are meeting with chairman Ray Lane and other members of the board to discuss an effort aimed at ousting the directors… (Read more.)
Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) may possess the secret sauce that could make an original series successful: user data. In order to develop “House of Cards” — which was very well received — the Internet-video provider looked at the massive amount of data provided by its 27 million United States subscribers, and ran the numbers. Netflix did not stumble upon the combination of director David Fincher, leading actors Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright, and the idea to remake the British version of “House of Cards” randomly… (Read more.)
Barnes & Noble (NYSE:BKS) announced that it is evaluating the sale of its retail business to chairman and founder Leonard Riggio. There is no timetable yet for the board’s strategic review of the proposition, but shares closed the day up 11.47 percent, despite market turmoil, on the news… (Read more.)
Zynga (NASDAQ:ZNGA) also had a good day despite broad market losses. Investors are still riding high on Nevada’s legalization of online gambling and the long-term implications it could have for the social gaming company… (Read more.)
General Electric (NYSE:GE) filed a lawsuit on February 15 against several Whirlpool (NYSE:WHR) subsidiaries and two European suppliers of refrigerant compressors in the federal U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky. GE’s lawsuit alleges that it was the “victim of the conspirator’s cartel,” which artificially pushed compressor market prices higher by illegally coordinating price increases with each other… (Read more.)