May 13 - Summary of business headlines: S&P 500 crawls to new record but market action lackluster; retail sales show surprise rise; Dell wants answers on Icahn bid; Softbank turns on bankers in bid for Sprint; British PM says no need for EU referendum right now. Conway G. Gittens reports.
The S&P 500 nudges up to a record close, but Wall Street didn't appear to be in the mood to do much. The Dow slipped 26 points but in last minutes of trade the S&P 500 moved to a fractional gain and the Nasdaq held a small rally. Retail sales surprisingly grew by one-tenth of one percent in April, with sales gains widespread. The number is being taken as a sign the economy, and the consumer more specifically, are holding up well despite higher taxes and fiscal austerity. A special board committee for Dell wants more details from Carl Icahn. Late-Friday, the billionaire investor joined forces with Southeastern Asset Management to offer $21 billion in cash, a lower offer than founder Michael Dell's bid to take the company private at $24.4 billion. The main questions they want answered- who would run the company if Icahn's bid wins and how would he finance that cash payout? And in other deal news, Softbank is telling bankers if they fund Dish's counterbid for Sprint, they can kiss chances of getting in on the lucrative Alibaba IPO goodbye. Softbank has a 33 percent stake in Alibaba. Sprint and Dish declined comment and both of their stocks were down. Softbank wouldn't comment either British Prime Minister David Cameron is in Washington to discuss a trans-Atlantic trade pact but just as much focus was put on talk of Britain voting to leave the euro zone. He says talk of referendum before 2017 is non-sense, at least for now, as he works on reforming the euro zone from within. SOUNDBITE: BRITISH PRIME MINISTER DAVID CAMERON (ENGLISH) SAYING: "Is it in our interests to reform the European Union, to make it more open, more competitive, more flexible and to improve Britain's place within the European Union? Yes it is in our national interest. And it is not only in our national interest, it is achievable because Europe has to change because the single currency is driving change for that part of the European Union that is in the single currency. And just as they want changes, so I believe, Britain is quite entitled to ask for and to get changes in response." As for European markets - there wasn't much movement there either - but just enough for the German Dax to close at a record - five sessions in a row.