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While you were sleeping: Wall Street down after Sandy

Thursday 1st November 2012

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Wall Street fell on the first day of trading this week as shares of Apple declined after a management reshuffle, while Walt Disney Co shares fell after its deal to buy George Lucas's Lucasfilm.

Shares of Walt Disney fell, last down 2.1 percent. The company agreed to buy Lucasfilm and its "Star Wars" franchise for $US4.05 billion.

Also weighing on Wall Street were shares of Apple, last 1.3 percent lower, after the company said mobile software head Scott Forstall and retail leader John Browett would leave.

"Both departures were likely forced by Apple's CEO and weren't voluntary," Amit Daryanani, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets, wrote in a research report today, according to Bloomberg News. "While there will be concerns about future execution given Mr Forstall's departure, we note that Apple has navigated through past turnovers impeccably."

US equity markets had been closed on Monday and Tuesday because of Hurricane Sandy. In afternoon trading in New York, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.28 percent, the Standard & Poor's 500 Index slid 0.18 percent, while the Nasdaq Composite Index dropped 0.60 percent.

"Liquidity remains very light in equities as there are a lot of empty seats on the Street," Dave Lutz, a Baltimore-based trader with Stifel, Nicolaus & Co, told Reuters. "We're also seeing some outsized moves."

While the clean-up from Sandy was accelerating, public transport remained far lower than capacity and officials don't expect a return to normal levels for several days.

Shares of Facebook, meanwhile, fell, last down 4.1 percent, as the period during which employees were not allowed to sell their stock ended on October 29. Facebook shares were sold in an initial public offering in May.

Car makers, however, were having a great day. Shares of General Motors gained 9.1 percent, while those of Ford Motor rose 6.4 percent, after both reported solid results that exceeded expectations. GM reported today, Ford reported yesterday.

On the economic front, the news was mixed. Labor Department data showed that the employment cost index rose 0.4 percent in the third quarter, after advancing 0.5 percent in the prior quarter. However, a report from the Institute for Supply Management-Chicago showed that business activity unexpectedly shrank in October.

The Labor Department also confirmed it would release the monthly payrolls report on Friday as scheduled.

Europe's Stoxx 600 Index finished the session with a 0.5 percent decline from the previous close. National benchmark stock indexes also fell in Germany, the UK and France. BG Group warned that production growth would stall next year.

The overall mood was dampened by renewed calls for Greece to increase its cost-cutting efforts to satisfy the conditions of its bailout, rekindling concern that the progress on solving the euro zone's debt crisis remains glacial at best.

Data from the European Union's statistics office today showed that unemployment in the euro zone rose to 11.6 percent in September.

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