Stocks ended a choppy session lower, with the Dow's lowest close since April 25, on fear tied to escalating tensions between Russia and the West and talk of possible U.S. military action in Iraq. Conway G. Gittens reports.
Wall Street takes a bumpy ride as escalating tensions in Iraq, and concerns about tit-for-tat sanctions between the West and Russia dragged stocks lower. Multi-national blue chips bore the brunt of the selling, with the Dow closing at a more than three-month low. The selling came despite progress on the labor front. The four-week moving average on jobless claims dropped to the lowest since February 2006. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings is thumping his chest following results out of Time Warner unit HBO. Media analyst Rich Greenfield - tweeting a post Hastings put on Facebook. He says Netflix subscriber revenue last quarter at $1.146 billion eclipsed HBO's at $1.141 billion. But the analyst at Needham says it's unfair to compare Netflix's number, which is global, to HBO's, which is just domestic. Nevertheless, that tweet excited investors, who pushed the stock to near $450. Staying with media. Twenty-First Century Fox beat forecasts one-day earlier and executives stressed they won't be renewing an effort to go after Time Warner. Shares of the media company - the best gainer in the S&P 500. That $80 billion mega-merger abandoned by Rupert Murdoch is still the talk on trading desks. Sachin Shah is a merger arbitrage specialist at Albert Fried. SOUNDBITE: SACHIN SHAH, MERGER ARBITRAGE SPECIALIST, ALBERT FRIED (ENGLISH) SAYING: "He saw his stock trading off and he's like 'you know what, these guys are not going to do it, why am I wasting my time? Move on. Let's see what happens to my stock. Announces a $6 billion repurchase. Let them do whatever they are going to do, and let their shareholders come to us.' I don't think that's going to happen because Time Warner, I believe, is worth a lot more; essentially what the consensus was indicating in triple digits." By the way, Time Warner's shares - down about 16 percent in three days. Back to earnings: 3-D printer maker Stratasys - raising full-year estimates after better-than-expected results. Wendy's maintains its fiscal year outlook but warns the number of store closings due to facelifts will increase. Interest rates were the focus in Europe. European Central Bank President Mario Draghi kept rates at an historic low but that was overlooked by worries about Portugal's banking system after the bailout of Banco Espirito Santo. The end result was a drop of a least one percent in Germany and France, less in the U.K.