March Sadness! The Labor Department's monthly jobs report is a major stunner. There were just 88,000 news jobs created. That's less than half expectations which hovered at or near 200,000. Unemployment did dip down to 7.6%, the lowest since President Obama took office because the labor force shrank.
The mouse is again cleaning house. Reuters reports that Disney (DIS) is about to begin more layoffs. Word is the cuts will come at the studio and consumer product divisions. It's unclear how many jobs will be eliminated, but Reuters says the pink slips will be distributed within the next two weeks. They're part of cost-cutting efforts which also led to the shutdown on Wednesday of LucasArts, the videogame arm of LucasFilm which employed about 200 people. Now, to be clear, Disney is not a company in crisis. Shares are up more than 40% over the last year and trading at all-time highs.
Surprise! Facebook (FB) is getting into the phone business. The Z-man, Mark Zuckerberg wore a zipper-front hoodie to make the announcement. The company is rolling out a handset built specifically to highlight the social network. It uses software called "Home" and will come preloaded on a new HTC handset. The phone with Home will be avaiable starting next Friday through AT&T (T). It will sell for $100. Home can also be downloaded to different HTC phones and other handsets including the new Samsung Galaxy S4.
STOCKS TO WATCH
Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) rose nearly 2% yesterday on news of a company shake-up. Chairman Ray Lane announced he is stepping down saying he wants to reduce distractions. Two weeks ago he barely survived a shareholder revolt. Lane was blamed for his role in HP's costly acquisition of British software maker Autonomy. He'll remain on the company board, but two other members are departing amid the fallout. Shares of HP took quite a dip this week, prior to yesterday's rise. Still they've nearly doubled since November.
Best Buy (BBY) now sits at a 52-week high, after leaping more than 16% yesterday. Shares spiked on news that the big box retailer will be creating Samsung boutiques inside its stores. By the way, Best Buy also said it's offering a 30% discount on its current stock of the iPad 3. Shares of Best Buy were trading just over $11 right after Christmas when all the talk was about show-rooming. The stock is now above $25.
F5 Networks (FFIV) is down sharply in premarket trading here on the NASDAQ. Shares tumbled after hours yesterday when the company warned that second-quarter net income and revenue will fall short of its expectations. F5 sells IT and networking equipment. It points to a drop in business with the federal government as part of the problem. If you were holding shares of F5, the time to sell was last April when the stock almost hit $140. Right now it's under $80.
We end on a positive note with WD-40 (WDFC) which is up more than 6% in premarket trading. The maker of the famous multi-purpose formula let earnings out of the can after yesterday's closing bell. It made 66-cents a share, beating expectations by a dime. Revenue, however, we should mention was right in line with estimates at $87-million. The jump we're seeing in shares right now puts the stock at a new 52-week high, beating one set about a month ago.