Monday, August 27, 2012
NEW YORK (AP) — The biggest story in the stock market Monday was Apple, but that wasn't saying much.
Stocks nosed higher, but trading was light, even by the slumberous standards of August. The investors who weren't on vacation were biding their time until a big speech Friday by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke in Jackson Hole, Wyo.
In the meantime, there wasn't much else to help them decide how to trade. Apple was one of the few spots of action in an otherwise dull market.
The stock shot to an all-time high, $680.87 when trading opened, then settled by afternoon to $677.09, up about 2 percent. Late Friday, a court ruled for Apple in a patent dispute with Samsung.
The court found that Samsung copied some of the features and designs of the iPhone and iPad, and Samsung could be forced to take some of its products off the shelves.
A 2 percent jump might not seem like much, and it certainly wasn't the biggest move on the stock market Monday. Best Buy, Hertz, Dollar Thrifty and other companies all moved by bigger percentages.
But the Nasdaq composite index and Standard & Poor's 500 index are weighted so companies with the highest stock market values are most important. A small change in Apple can influence the market more than even bigger swings by smaller companies.
Apple is the biggest company by stock market value in American history — about $633 billion late Monday. It's worth more than 100 times as much as Best Buy or Hertz, and more than 250 times as much as Dollar Thrifty.
It makes up more than 13 percent of the Nasdaq composite, and about 5 percent of the S&P 500.
Apple's jump on Monday helped the S&P climb a point to 1,412 and the Nasdaq rise four to 3,074. The Dow Jones industrial average, which does not include Apple, fell 16 points to 13,142.
"The market is kind of on hold until Jackson Hole," said Randall Warren, chief investment officer of Warren Financial Service outside Philadelphia. "Probably Apple is the only thing that's moving the market today. It's stunning how big they are."
Investors will scour Bernanke's remarks Friday for clues about whether the Federal Reserve will buy more government bonds or take other action to speed up the economic recovery.
But some investors doubt that there's much the Fed can do. The Fed's two previous rounds of bond-buying, in March 2009 and November 2010, were designed to lower interest rates, but short-term rates are already near zero.
"Who cares what the Fed's going to do?" said Steve Quirk, senior vice president of the trader group at TD Ameritrade in Chicago. "It's not effective anymore anyway."
Shares of Hertz and Dollar Thrifty jumped after Hertz announced it would buy its rival. Hertz shares jumped 13 percent, or $1.64, to $14.79. Dollar Thrifty rose $6, or 7.4 percent, to $87.
Best Buy climbed 66 cents, or 3.8 percent, to $17.96 after announcing that its founder would be able to pursue his plans to buy the company and take it off the public stock market.
But mostly, trading was quiet. Out of 18 trading days this month, the Dow has moved more than 1 percent only once. On five days it has been virtually flat, moving less than one-tenth of a percentage point.
In Europe, the debt crisis trudged along, but without any real steps forward or back.
On Monday, the head of Germany's central bank repeated his opposition to a bond-buying plan that could lower borrowing costs for countries like Spain and Italy but that would require Germany to foot most of the bill.
Germany's finance minister and economy minister, also weighed in over the weekend, saying they wouldn't give Greece more time to make the spending cuts that Germany has demanded.
But none of the comments came as a surprise, and bigger events lie ahead. German courts will decide next month whether Germany is constitutionally allowed to keep participating in bailouts.