STOCKS FINISH THEIR BEST MONTH IN 4 YEARS: Here's what you need to know

The US stock market just logged its best month in four years, amid a decline on Friday.

In October, stocks went positive for the year, regaining the losses incurred during the sharp drops in August and September. The benchmark S&P 500 and the blue-chip Dow both closed out the month with a ~9% rally, while the Nasdaq gained nearly 10%.

First, Friday’s scoreboard:

  • Dow: 17,709.13, -46.67, (-0.26%)
  • S&P 500: 2,084.44, -4.97, (-0.24%)
  • Nasdaq: 5,063.04, -11.23, (-0.22%)

And now, the day’s top stories:

  1. Some investors spent their entire morning on the phone with hedge fund manager Bill Ackman, as he defended his investment in Valeant pharmaceuticals. Following a Citron Research report last week that alleged the company operated an Enron-like fraud, Ackman’s Pershing Square lost about $US1.5 billion on paper as the stock tumbled. The main takeaways from the four-hour call that started around 9:00 a.m. ET were that, the company has sophisticated investors; it’s a victim of bad PR; CEO Mike Pearson is the best person to run the company; Valeant shares have an 89% upside (shares fell ~15% Friday); and, specialty pharmacies are good for America.
  2. Before the call, Herbalife — a company that Ackman bet publicly against — released a one-sentence statement that read, “I hope Bill Ackman has done more research on Valeant than he did on Herbalife, Target, Borders, and JC Penny (sic)”. Ouch.
  3. Also before the call, Valeant announced it was ending its relationship with Philidor, the specialty pharmacy at the heart of the accusations. Citron had alleged that Valeant used Philidor to create ghost transactions and boost its sales numbers. “We have lost confidence in Philidor’s ability to continue to operate in a manner that is acceptable to Valeant,” Pearson said in a statement.
  4. Here come more accusations: Citron Research tweeted that it would release an update on Monday “dirtier than anyone has reported!!”
  5. Some economic data: The University of Michigan’s consumer confidence index rose in October to 90, less than the forecast for 92.5. The Survey of Consumers’ Richard Curtin noted that confidence rebounded among lower income households, and fell among households in the top third of income distribution due to financial market concerns.
  6. The Chicago purchasing manager’s index was 56.2, the highest since January. The survey of manufacturers and servicers in the region offered some relief amid a slowdown in manufacturing output. “Production led the latest increase, jumping just under 20 points to 63.4, while New Orders also rose sharply, leaving both at the highest since the start of the year,” the report said.
  7. Wage growth bounced back. The latest employment-cost index (ECI) from the Bureau of Labour Statistics on Friday showed that wages for American workers rose by 0.6% in the third quarter, after a 0.2% gain in Q2.

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