Stocks finished the day mixed, as the tech-heavy Nasdaq was the only major average to finish in positive territory while the S&P 500 and Dow gave up some of yesterday's big gains, losing most of their ground in the final hour of trading.
First, the scoreboard:
Dow: 17,672.6, -141.5, (-0.8%)
S&P 500: 2,051.8, -11.3, (-0.6%)
Nasdaq: 4,757.9, +7.5, (+0.1%)
And now, the top stories on Friday:
1. Last night, news broke that Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz died at 91. This move briefly impacted the price of oil, as Saudi Arabia has been the leading voice within OPEC, the 12-member oil cartel that has declined to cut production in the face of declining production. On Friday, oil prices ultimately finished lower, with West Texas Intermediate crude settling below $46 for the week.
2. The latest rig count from oil driller Baker Hughes showed that the number of oil and gas rigs in the US continues to tumble, last week falling by 43, with 6 natural gas rigs coming online and 49 oil rigs shutting down last week. The number of oil rigs in use is now down by almost 20% from its October high, and earlier this week, Baker Hughes said that during oil downturns the number of rigs in use typically falls by 40%-60%.
3. UPS said on Friday morning that its fourth quarter earnings will miss expectations, and shares of shipping giant fell nearly 10% following the announcement. UPS attributed the likely shortfall in its quarterly earnings to "underperformance" from its US domestic segment. In a release, UPS CEO David Abney said, "Clearly, our financial performance during the quarter was disappointing." UPS rival FedEx, meanwhile, affirmed its full-year earnings outlook.
4. McDonald's reported earnings that were mixed, as global same-store sales fell 0.9% in the fourth quarter and US same-store sales were off 1.7%, though both of these declines were less than expected by Wall Street analysts. In a statement McDonald's CEO Don Thompson said the company's business continues to face "meaningful headwinds," and said same-store sales in January are expected to be negative while results will, "remain pressured, particularly in the first half of the year."
5. Cloud storage company Box made its debut on the New York Stock Exchange on Friday, opening for trade at $20.20 per share after its IPO price at $14 on Thursday night. Ahead of the IPO, the company was talked up by CNBC personality Jim Cramer, who said he liked shares at $18. Box shares gained more thn 60% to close at $23.23 on Friday.
6. On the economic data front, existing home sales in December rose 2.4% to an annualized pace of 5.04 million, though existing home sales in 2014 totaled 4.93 million, a 3.1% decline over the prior year. Following the results, Lawrence Yun, chief economist at the National Association of Realtors said that existing home sales were up more than 8% in the second half of the year compared to the first as inventory increased, though a decrease in current inventory could create affordability issues in the next few months.