April 23 - Summary of business headlines: Netflix missed new subscriber growth forecasts; Wall Street dragged lower by Wal-Mart bribery allegations and political upheaval in Europe; Facebook buying AOL patents from Microsoft. Conway G. Gittens reports.
It was a soggy start to the trading week on Wall Street as another European government breaks down under the weight of the debt crisis. In other developments: Netflix added fewer-than-expected net subscribers last quarter. Even though the loss-per-share was smaller than anticipated and revenues came in ahead of forecasts, investors are mostly concerned with how many new paying customers sign up, which helps the company pay higher costs for the movies it offers. Shares are likely to open lower when full trading resumes Tuesday. Staying with technology: Facebook is paying more than a half a billion dollars in cash to buy hundreds of AOL patents recently sold to Microsoft. The buy allows Facebook to bulk up on intellectual property as it contends with a patent infringement lawsuit filed by Yahoo, and is it prepares for the hottest initial public offering ever to come out of Silicon Valley. Shares of Wal-Mart suffered as investors responded to allegations of bribery and an attempted cover-up. The allegations reported in the New York Times over the weeked involve Wal-Mart's Mexican affiliate Wal-Mart de Mexico. Lawmakers are launching investigations and analysts are considering what this will mean for Wal-Mart's global expansion. In a video statement on its website, the company says it is "working aggresively to determine what happened." A drop in Wal-Mart shares hurt Wall Street, sending stocks lower for the third time in four sessions. Europe also played a factor. A government crisis in the Netherlands fanned fears the debt crisis is still a threat to stability in the region. European shares slumped to a three-month low in response. Conway Gittens, Reuters