Politics Upset The Markets, Apple Closes Lower

Stocks were affected by politics today. In a supposed reaction to alleged strong-arm tactics from President Bush to pressure him to vote the party line, Senator James Jeffords of Vermont left the Republican party to become an independent. Party defections have occurred in the past, for instance Phil Graham of Texas left the democratic party in the early 80s to become a Republican, but Senator Jeffordsi departure comes at an unusual time. The US Senate is, or was, evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans. Because ties are broken by the Vice President, Republican Dick Cheney at this particular time, that means that the Republicans have controlled the Senate since January of this year. In the Senate, that is very important because the majority controls the various powerful Senate committee chairmanships, and those chairpersons control which legislation reaches the floor. That in turn could prove a major roadblock to President Bushis economic agenda (and everything else, but this is a financial piece), much of which is considered to be pro-business. The reasoning goes that if this all comes to pass, profits could be hurt. The markets took this interesting confluence of events as an opportunity to take profits on some of the stocks that have been run up during the last couple of months. Republicans are still reportedly working to get Senator Jeffords to change his mind. This is a truly fascinating series of events.

Volume was light on both the Dow and the Nasdaq as the selling sent the Nasdaq off by 3% and the Dow by 1.35%.

Goldman Sachs initiated coverage of the PC hardware sector today. The firm offered Dell a fat "Recommended" rating, while Apple, Gateway, and Compaq all got "Market Outperform" ratings. Our old friend Steve Fortuna followed suit and came out with his own nifty comments about Dell. CBS Marketwatch has all the details. All the warm fuzzies for the hardware sector didnit see them post gains, except for Dell, our soul gainer among the stocks we track in the Stock Watch.

Microsoft hosted a CEO conference in which the many CEOs around the world who waste billions of dollars buying products that use Microsoftis operating systems gather together to get reinforcement for their poor decisions. At this yearis conference, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates pronounced that we are not at the end of a technology boom , we are merely at the end of the beginning. The weakest link? Broadband. Thanks Chairman Bill. Your astute observations have enlightened us all. One thing that Chairman Bill said that we applaud is (from a Reuters report):

"How could a technology that reduces barriers to entry allow the creation of companies whose value is greater than ones that created assets in the real world where you build stores and there are barriers to entry?" Gates said. "That paradox has now been resolved -- there was no reason for that to take place."

Mr. Gates is utterly correct about that. How ironic it is that it took the naked emperor to spot the lack of ermine and sable in the Internet kingdom. In other Microsoft news, the IndustryStandard is reporting that the EU is waiting to see what the US is going to do with its antitrust suit against Microsoft. In the meanwhile, David Coursey said today in an editorial that Microsoft was only able to move towards their subscription licensing model because they have monopoly power.

A MorningStar commentator speculated on the merits of Apple buying Palm OS licensee Handspring. His key argument is that Handspring is cheap, Apple needs a handheld, and buying Handspring includes the inventors of the first Palm units Jeff Hawkins and Donna Dubinsky. It makes for interesting reading.

Apple traded lower today in light volume. The stock opened in positive territory, but spent most of the day south of the border. The dayis trading range was 22.86 - 23.75.

Apple closed at 23.23, a loss of 0.27 (-1.15%), on light volume of 5,018,600 shares trading hands.

The Nasdaq closed at 2243.48, a loss of 70.37 (-3.04%), on volume of 1,887,190,000 shares trading hands.

The Dow closed at 11105.51, a loss of 151.73 (-1.35%), on volume of 1,139,091,000 shares trading hands.

The S&P 500 closed at 1289.05, off by 20.33 (-1.55%).

Adobe closed at 44.47, a loss of 1.81 (-3.91%), on light volume of 2,394,300 shares trading hands.

Akamai closed at 11.26, a loss of -1.55 -12.10% 3,263,100 shares trading hands. Apple is a large shareholder of Akamai.

Earthlink was able to hold on to most of its gains from yesterdayis move that came when AOL raised its rates. ELNK closed at 14.10, down a nickel (-0.35%), on light volume of 1,660,400 shares trading hands.

IBM has announced a new opportunity for Linux developers to use a multimillion dollar mainframe box of IBMis for, wait for it, free. This is part of IBMis ongoing investment in Linux, and it doesnit even involve people vandalizing sidewalks. Sarcasm aside, this is pretty gutsy move from IBM that should be a big boost to the Linux community. IBM closed at 117.40, a loss of 0.61 (-0.52%), on light volume of 6,403,100 shares trading hands.

Macromediais closed at 22.78, a loss of 2.91 (-11.33%), on heavy volume of 2,549,100 shares trading hands.

Motorola closed at 16.15, a loss of 0.45 (-2.71%), on light volume of 9,212,700 shares trading hands.

Dell was our only gainer today, closing at 26.81, up 0.87 (+3.35%), on strong volume of 59,095,000 shares trading hands.

Gateway closed at 19.08, a gain of 0.13 (+0.69%), on light volume of 1,423,000 shares trading hands.

Intel closed at 28.80, a loss of 0.73 (-2.47%), on volume of 53,492,900 shares trading hands.

Microsoft and McAffee made a pact that will tie in Microsoftis .Net and McAffeeeis anti-viral software. MSFT closed at 69.70, a loss of 0.61 (-0.87%), on strong volume of 46,822,100 shares trading hands.

For full quotes on all the companies mentioned in this article, we have assembled this set of quotes at Yahoo! for your reference. For other stories regarding Appleis stock activity, visit our updated Apple Stock Watch Special Report. You can also check out our Apple Financial Boards, a new moderated forum for Apple Investors and people who are interested in Appleis financial dealings.