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U.S. Service Sector Shows Signs of Life; Morgan Stanley to Slash More Jobs; Random House to Turn the Page on Chief Executive; Countrywide Rated "Underperform", Shares Dive; Sprint Nextel Corp. Considering Spinning Off Nextel; Warren Buffett's Warning; Principal Financial Slumps; Wal-Mart Widens Drug Plan Scope
- for the first time in four months, Reuters reported. The Institute for Supply Management said yesterday (Monday) that its non-manufacturing index was 52 in April, up from 49.6 in March. ISM's jobs gauge for the sector posted its biggest improvement in seven months, however, inflation pressures remain at their highest in five months.
- Morgan Stanley (MS) will reduce another 1,500 employees from its securities-firm workforce, CNBC reported. The company rebounded in the first quarter of 2008, reporting net income of $1.5 billion, but business conditions remain weak and profit margins are tight throughout the securities business.
- Shares of Countrywide Financial Corp. (CFC) fell almost 15% yesterday (Monday) after a report from Friedman, Billings, Ramsey & Co. suggested that Bank of America Corp. (BAC) back out of its takeover. The report lowered Countrywide's price target to $2 a share, down from $7, and cut its rating to "underperform" from "market perform," Bloomberg reported.
- Sprint Nextel Corp. (S) is considering spinning off its Nextel unit, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing sources familiar with the matter. In 2005, Sprint bought Nextel Communications for $35 billion. Cyren Call, a company founded by Nextel co-founder Morgan O'Brien, is trying to reel investors to buy Nextel from Sprint.
- Warren Buffett spoke to a record 31,000 shareholders at Qwest Center in Omaha, Nebraska on Saturday for Berkshire Hathaway Inc.'s (BRK.A, BRK.B) annual meeting. "There is absolutely no question" that Berkshire's returns will decline, Reuters reported Buffett said. "Anyone that expects us to come close to replicating the past should sell their stock. It isn't going to happen. I think we're going to get decent results over time, but we're not going to get indecent results." Both classes of Berkshire Hathaway stock slumped over 2% yesterday (Monday).
- Late yesterday (Monday) afternoon, Principal Financial Group Inc. (PFG) announced first quarter . The results were below mean analyst expectations of $2.87 billion, Thomson Financial reported. Shares slumped 74 cents, a 1.28% decline, to close at $57.18 after the announcement.
- Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT) announced yesterday (Monday) that it would expand its generic prescription drug program to cover over 1,000 over-the-counter medications for $4 or less. "We expect that today's extension will generate additional pharmacy volume for the company, especially given the current weak consumer environment and rising health-care costs," wrote Uta Werner, a retail analyst with Sanford C. Bernstein & Co, in a research note, Reuters reported.