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Stocks crushed as previous days gains wiped out

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Stocks were hammered on Thursday, as steep selling in the tech-heavy Nasdaq spilled over into the broader indices. After a two-day rebound earlier this week, traders were apparently looking for an opportunity to sell the rips, and they did. The Dow (^DJI) tumbled nearly 267 points, or 1.6%. The Nasdaq (^IXIC) was the big loser, shedding nearly 3.1%, while the S&P 500 (^GSPC) plunged 2.1%. Biotech shares were under pressure again, with the Biotech ETF (IBB) getting crushed to the tune of 5.6%.

In other news, General Motors (GM) CEO Mary Barra placed two engineers on paid leave as a result of the investigation into the faulty ignition switches that has been linked to 13 deaths. It's the first action the company has taken against employees in the matter. The employees were removed after Barra was briefed by attorney Anton Valukas, who is conducting an internal investigation. The action by GM comes as House and Senate committees investigating the recall turn their attention to engineers and others at the company who may have known about the faulty ignition switch. At a town-hall meeting Thursday morning, Barra announced an initiative called “Speak Up for Safety” that recognizes employees who make an impact on vehicle safety. Shares of General Motors ended the day down 1%.

Family Dollar Stores (FDO) announced it will close 370 stores and reduce prices on 1,000 items after reporting disappointing quarterly results. Profits declined 35% for the quarter ending March 1. Same-store sales dropped 3.8%. Quarterly sales fell 6.1% to $2.72 billion, below estimates of $2.77 billion. The company also said it will to cut jobs at its stores, but didn’t specify how many. Family Dollar also plans to slow the expansion of new stores. It had planned to open 500 stores in the next fiscal year, but will reduce that number to 350-400. Family Dollar ended the day at down 3.2%.

BlackBerry (BBRY) may no longer be known just for smartphones, if CEO John Chen has anything to say about it. In an interview with Bloomberg yesterday he said, “I don’t have a plan to get rid of handsets, I have a plan to not be dependent on handsets.” He’s giving the company two years to move away reliance on smartphones to focus on software, like its BlackBerry 10 operating system, already used in some cars and hospitals, or its BlackBerry Messenger service. Chen took over as CEO in November. BlackBerry shares ended the day 3.6%.

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