Tue07292014

Business & Real Estate

Dow drops HP, Alcoa and BofA

After the stock market closes Friday, the Dow Jones industrial average index of 30 stocks will drop Hewlett-Packard Co. and two other financial mainstays – Alcoa Inc. and Bank of America Corp.

News of the change raises questions among the followers of the Dow and McGraw Hill Financial, which controls the average. McGraw Hill representatives claim that they want to diversify the sectors in the index. The three replacement stocks are Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Visa Inc. and Nike Inc.

The reason is more likely that the stock prices of HP, Alcoa and Bank of America remain low, and the Dow would rather comprise higher-priced winners.

The average divisor will be adjusted before the market opens Monday, so the changes won’t impact the level of the Dow the same as when a stock splits or a spin-off occurs.

Two Town Crier “50” companies made headlines last week.

• Apple Inc. (AAPL; $450.36) unveiled its high-end iPhone 5s and the cheaper, more colorful iPhone 5c, putting an end to the secrecy. Company representatives said the iPhone 5s is twice as fast as the iPhone 5, with an improved camera, a new microchip and a finger sensor.

Apple’s stock plunged during the company’s rollout last week. Analysts suggested that consumers expected more, including stepped-up features not found in other phones.

Analysts are not impressed with Apple’s new iPhone lineup. One analyst cut the stock’s target price to $425 and trimmed the 2014 earnings estimate to $37.95 per share, down from $38.78.

A recent CNET poll revealed that 54 percent of respondents consider Apple a leading innovator, while 46 percent see it falling behind.

The lack of a deal to sell iPhones through China Mobile to more than 700 million subscribers also weighed on Apple shares. If Apple seals a deal with China Mobile, investors and analysts will likely push the stock again.

Apple’s stock is down 14 percent year-to-date and 31 percent over the past 12 months.

The median target price for Apple stock is $540, with a high of $825 – a large disparity. The upgrade and downgrade history is mixed, with most analysts favoring a hold or a neutral position.

• Facebook Inc. (FB; $43.32) stock is now more than $45 per share, marking its all-time high and up 17 percent since its initial public offering at $38 in July 2012.

Investors believe that the social-networking service will benefit from the growing demand for advertising on smartphones and tablets. With more than 1 billion members, Facebook has worked to simplify the ad-buying process for marketers.

Mobile ads totaled 41 percent of advertising revenue in the second quarter, up from 30 percent in the first quarter. While there is a growing acceptance that Facebook is not a fad, the company must continue to drive business from desktop ads to smartphones and tablets.

Second-quarter sales rose 53 percent to $1.81 billion, topping analysts’ prediction of $1.62 billion.

Whereas most analysts previously suggested a downgrade for Facebook stock, they have changed their tune in the past three months, upgrading it to a buy or neutral. The mean target price is $42, with a high of $60.

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