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Three Days, Three Records for the Dow; Dell Deal Undone?

Dan Berman
Hot Stock Minute

Three cheers for the Dow. The industrial index rose into record territory today for the third straight session closing up 33 points to 14,329. Markets reacted positively to data on weekly jobless claims which fell 7,000 to 340,000. That helped drop the 4-week moving average to its lowest since March, 2008. Word out of Europe also helped; both the Bank of England and the European Central Bank decided to leave interest rates unchanged. Markets didn't seem to mind that the trade deficit grew 17% in February. The increase came from a rise in oil imports.

The day was rife with headaches Michael Dell. Now Carl Icahn is opposing Dell's (DELL) plan to take the computer company private again. Icahn is calling for a one-time $9 dividend instead of the offer already on the table. Dell has responded saying it's willing to listen to the activist investor. All this is going on as The Wall Street Journal reports that Dell's largest outside investor, Southeastern Asset Management, believes the current offer price of $24.4 billion is too low, so it's contemplating a counter-bid. Southeastern has also been leading an alliance of shareholders who say they'll vote against the proposed buyout. Under Dell's current proposal, investors would get $13.65 a share. The company is currently trading above $14 a share.

Shares of Meredith (MDP) tanked today on the news that Time Warner (TWX) is spinning off its magazine group into a new company. TWX publishes, "Time," "People," "Sports Illustrated" and "InStyle." It had been in talks to sell most of its mags to Meredith, the female-friendly publisher of titles like "Better Homes and Gardens,""Ladies Home Journal" and "Family Circle." But suddenly the deal disintegrated yesterday. Meredith shares hit their 52-week high shortly after word of its talks with Time Warner originally leaked out. Time Warner, which was already trading at its 52-week high, rose again today.

Boeing (BA) climbed to a new 52-week high, even as its 787 Dreamliner remains grounded. The National Transportation Safety Board issued an interim report in which it said many questions remain as to the lithium batteries that have been labeled a fire risk. Separately, Boeing announced today that it has received orders for 27 new planes, most of them 737s and 777s. As for the Dreamliner, it has been out of service since mid-January.

Gap (GPS) shares climbed more than 4% late this morning when February sales figures were released prematurely. Trading was halted for a brief time, and even when it resumed shared remained higher. Gap says its new sales rose 11% for the month. Same store sales were up 3%.

Facebook (FB) has unveiled a new look for its news feed. The company says it has two goals with the redesign. The first is to get users to stay on the site longer. The second is to integrate more advertising. Nearly ten months have passed since Facebook's IPO. The company popped back above $30 dollars a share last month but it's now trading in more familiar territory: under $28.