Stocks End Mostly Lower


U.S. Market
Stocks pared gains to end mostly lower today as investors considered the Fed’s bank stress tests and impact of sanctions against Russia.

Late Thursday the Federal Reserve released their latest big bank stress test. The central bank said that 29 out of 30 institutions had the capital cushions to withstand a severely adverse economic scenario. Zions Bancorporation ZION was the only bank to fail the test.

Fitch Ratings reaffirmed its AAA rating for the United States with a stable outlook. The move comes after the ratings agency said in October it was possible it would lower the rating in the first-quarter of this year. The agency said the move comes after Congress raised the debt ceiling with little fuss in February.

At market close the Dow, S&P 500 and Nasdaq were down 0.2%, 0.3% and 1.0% respectively.

Stocks on the Move
On Friday, Darden (DRI) Restaurants confirmed its previously released fiscal third-quarter results, including same-store sales gains of 0.3% at Longhorn and 0.7%, 5.4%, and 8.8% declines at SRG Restaurants, Olive Garden, and Red Lobster, respectively. Inclement weather and the timing of the Thanksgiving holiday played a role in the same-store sales declines (affecting results by 160 and 100 basis points, respectively). Management left its fiscal 2014 earnings per share outlook intact, continuing to call for a 15%-20% decline (implying full-year EPS of $2.50-$2.66, excluding one-time costs associated with the company's strategic initiatives), which implies 6.1% operating margins for the full year (versus 7.9% a year ago). Shares were up 2.8% at market close.

Symantec (SYMC) announced late Thursday that Steve Bennett has left the company. Bennett, who had been CEO since July 2012, implemented a number of organizational changes in order to improve the company's fortunes. However, the board did not believe the company was moving aggressively enough to capture the growth opportunities in the IT security and management industries. As a result, board member Michael Brown has been appointed interim president and CEO while the company conducts its search for a CEO with public company experience. Shares plunged over 12% on the news.

Shares of Nike (NKE) fell over 5% after the firm announced fiscal third-quarter results. In the quarter, revenues increased a solid 14% currency neutral to $6.97 billion, with growth in every category and geography. Gross margins came in at 44.5%, up 30 basis points year over year, and above guidance for an increase of 25 basis points. Although futures orders were up 14% currency-neutral, management was cautious about the coming fiscal fourth quarter, saying it would see top-line growth in the high single digits, despite the strong futures orders book

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