Today's Stock Market: The Five Biggest Stories to Watch

Today's stock market news, March 4, 2014: The Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped on Monday by 153.68 points, or 0.9%, to finish at 16,168.03. The Nasdaq dropped 30.82 points, or 0.7%, to hit 4,277.30, while the S&P 500 finished the day down 14.02 points, or 0.8%, to 1,845.43.

The markets had their worst selloff in more than a month on news that political tensions between Ukraine and Russia have escalated over the Crimean peninsula. New concerns about China and Turkey also overshadowed relatively positive economic news in the U.S. economy.

Here's the news today that's moving markets:

Five Biggest Stories in Today's Stock Market, March 4, 2014

  • Grain Prices Surge Worldwide: Wheat and corn prices surged yesterday in response to the Ukrainian crisis and news of Russian movement in the Crimean region. Ukraine is the world's fourth largest corn exporter and sixth largest supplier of wheat. Corn prices jumped to a six-month high, ticking up 3.7%, due to short-term supply concerns caused by Ukrainian farmers holding grains off the market in order to reduce exposure to the nation's cratering currency. Meanwhile, May wheat prices jumped as high as 5.9% per bushel at the Chicago Board of Trade, the largest increase in 18 months.
  • Hands-Free Solutions: It seems Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) is finally making its big automotive play. Apple has launched CarPlay, an interactive platform that links a user's iPhone to his or her car's in-dash system. The platform allows iPhone users to make calls, send texts and e-mails, and access maps and directions. Car manufacturers Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz, and Volvo are among the first adopters and are set to introduce the technology this week. Meanwhile, BMW, Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F), General Motors Co. (NYSE: GM), and Toyota will adopt CarPlay in the coming months.
  • More Banks Behaving Badly: No bank is immune to a criminal investigation. This week, Citigroup Inc. (NYSE: C) is reeling after Mexican police started to interrogate an employee at the company's Mexican subsidiary, Banco Nacional de Mexico (Banamex). Foreign regulators are determining whether Citigroup violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act over a $400 million loan scam involving a now-federally seized oil services company called Oceanographic. Panamex has received a subpoena from the U.S. Federal Deposit Insurance Corp, according to numerous reports.
  • A Shakeup in Washington State: With the appointment of Satya Nadella as CEO, Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) is undergoing a significant shakeup in its leadership. Reports out of Redmond, Wash., indicate that business development chief Tony Bates and marketing EVP Tami Reller are leaving. Bates was among the short list in the running for CEO. The former Skype chief has received a number of CEO offers over the last few months, and is now on the short list to lead device manufacturer GoPro. Bates will be replaced temporarily by Eric Rudder, the firm's current executive vice president of advanced strategy.
  • The Activist Winner: Investor activism pays off handsomely. On Monday, Icahn Enterprises L.P. (NYSE: IEP) reported a staggering profit of $1.025 billion, or $9.07 per share in 2013, Carl Icahn told investors in a shareholder letter yesterday. His firm earned $21 billion in revenues, a 144% profit over 2012. In the letter, Icahn championed his activist investing strategy, which he says targets "mediocre CEOs" and end "wasteful bureaucracy," both clear shots at eBay Inc. (Nasdaq: EBAY) board members, with whom he is currently engaged in a public battle.

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U.S. Economic Calendar March 4, 2014

  • CSC-Goldman Store Sales at 7:45 a.m.
  • Gallup US ECI at 8:30 a.m.
  • Redbook at 8:55 a.m.
  • 4-Week Bill Auction at 11:30 a.m.
  • 52-Week Bill Auction at 11:30 a.m.
  • Richmond Federal Reserve Bank President Jeffrey Lacker Speaks at 4:15 p.m.

Key Companies Reporting Earnings March 4, 2014

  • Consensus earnings per share for EW Scripps Co. (NYSE: SSP) is $0.14.
  • Consensus earnings per share for Autozone Inc. (NYSE: AZO) is $5.55.
  • Consensus earnings per share for Bank of Nova Scotia (NYSE: BNS) is $1.20.
  • Consensus earnings per share for Hilltop Holdings Inc. (NYSE: HTH) is $0.38.
  • Consensus earnings per share for Trina Solar Ltd. (NYSE: TSL) is $0.04.
  • Consensus earnings per share for Journal Communications Inc. (NYSE: JRN) is $0.16.
  • Consensus earnings per share for Radioshack Corp. (NYSE: RSH) is $-0.16.

Others Reporting Earnings

  • MCG Capital Corp. (MCGC), Bob Evans Farms Inc. (BOBE), Rigel Pharmaceuticals Inc. (RIGL), Gentiva Health Services Inc. (GTIV), Bio-Reference Laboratories Inc. (BRLI), Trinity Biotech plc (TRIB)

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About the Author

Garrett Baldwin is a globally recognized research economist, financial writer, consultant, and political risk analyst with decades of trading experience and degrees in economics, cybersecurity, and business from Johns Hopkins, Purdue, Indiana University, and Northwestern.

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