Feb. 21 - Summary: Wall St. slips with investors showing reluctance to push markets higher; Barnes & Noble gets $1.3 billion buyout offer; Dish Network rises, Charter falls after earnings; U.S. home resales worst in 18 months. Conway G. Gittens reports.
Wall Street made an effort but just could not seal the deal on a third up week in a row. Movement on Friday was modest with investors seeing no reason to push the S&P 500 to a record close. As for the weekly totals: Blue chips were slightly lower, while the Nasdaq rallied six-tenths of a percent. More dealmaking before the close of the week. Barnes and Noble getting a buyout offer from G Asset Management. The deal values the bookseller at $1.3 billion. But the proposed buyer wants to split the Nook digital book reader business and offered to buy that unit separately too, saying a split would create "substantial shareholder value." The stock settled with a 4-1/2 percent gain. Priceline.com was one of the biggest percentage winners in the S&P 500. The travel website says bookings are up, with revenues surging 29 percent. The stock rallied to a new record above $1,300 a share one day after releasing results. In other earnings reactions, Dish Networks booked more revenue per subcriber, sending the stock higher. But investors - disappointed with a lack of a game plan from Charter Communications after losing a bid for Time Warner Cable to Comcast. Groupon lost over one-fifth of its value after providing a weak outlook. Existing home sales tumbled to an 18-month low in January, as tight inventory and this harsh winter hurt. Weather is also denting economic growth forecasts, says Chris Rupkey of Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi. SOUNDBITE: CHRIS RUPKEY, CHIEF FINANCIAL ECONOMIST, BANK OF TOKYO-MITSUBISHI (ENGLISH) SAYING: "I'm ususally more optimistic than most economists. I don't want to bring it down too far, but it could easily be 2.0 (percent) in the first quarter. We've seen harsh winter weather conditions before hit the U.S., and it could really but a damper on growth for one quarter. Don't forget things will come back in the spring. It should be better in the second quarter." In Europe, finally - signs of progress in Ukraine. The two sides signed a peace agreement after the deadliest week of violence since Soviet Times. As for the markets, stocks in Germany, France and the U.K. bounced higher.