After a banner year for U.S. stock markets in 2013, investors are hoping the trend will continue in 2014. One of the first domestic economic indicators released in the new year is weekly jobless claims. The Labor Department said 339,000 jobless claims were filed last week on a consensus estimate of 338,500. That's a drop of 2,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 341,000 claims.
Italian carmaker Fiat has agreed to buy the rest of Chrysler, taking full control of the automaker. Fiat will pay $3.65 billion to the United Auto Workers retiree healthcare trust for the remaining 41.46% of Chrysler. The agreement totals $4.35 billion -- it includes $700 million in separate annual payments from Chrysler over four years after the deal closes. There was speculation that a Chrysler IPO would happen early this year, but this deal makes it less likely. Fiat was brought in to take partial control of Chrysler by the Obama Administration during Big-Three automaker's bankruptcy proceedings in 2009.
Google's (GOOG) Motorola unit is cutting the price of its flagship smartphone. The company dropped the price of its 16-gigabyte Moto X smartphone from $550 to $399 without a contract. The Moto X was $349 for periods in December, but it will remain at $399 - this is not a promotion, it's permanent. Verizon (VZ), AT&T (T) and Sprint (S) will offer the phone for $99 with a contract. By comparison, the Samsung Galaxy S4, the most popular premium smartphone, with 16 gigs costs $600 at Verizon Wireless without a contract, while Apple's 16-gig iPhone will run you $650.
And here’s a look at three hot stocks the Yahoo Finance team will be watching for you today.
First up is Netflix (NFLX), which was the best-performing stock in the S&P 500 in 2013. It was up over 300% for the year, but customers might notice less content to stream in 2014. The company dropped at least 85 movies from its streaming service Wednesday. Netflix is also testing a new service that would allow users to stream on one or four different screens at a time instead of the standard two screens. The new services will cost $11.99 for four screens simultaneously and $6.99 for one screen, compared to $7.99 for standard service. Netflix has been facing the issue of how to address users who share their subscriptions.
Next is Wal-Mart (WMT), whose shares could see some movement today as the company will recall donkey meat sold in some of its stores in China. Government tests showed the "Five Spice" donkey meat contained the DNA of other animals - specifically fox meat. This isn't the first time Wal-Mart's food has had trouble in China. The company was accused last year of using expired eggs in baked goods. And in 2011, Wal-Mart was accused of mislabeling pork as expensive organic meat. Wal-Mart ended 2013 with shares up close to 14%.
Our last stock is Apple (AAPL), which was downgraded this morning by Wells Fargo to Market Perform from Outperform. Wells Fargo believes Apple's margins will see pressure this year after it launches its iPhone 6. Apple had a lackluster year in 2013, ultimately finishing up only 2%.
As we said, Google's Motorola unit is slashing prices on its Moto X smartphone in an attempt to undercut its rivals. What do you think? Does a Moto X price-cut make the phone more appealing to you over an Apple iPhone or a Samsung Galaxy S4? Vote below and leave a comment with your thoughts.