STOCKS HAVE THEIR BEST WEEK OF THE YEAR: Here's what you need to know

Stocks closed modestly higher on Friday, but posted their best weekly performance of the year. The benchmark S&P 500 index has rallied nearly 8% from the lows reached during the market sell-off in August.

First, the scoreboard:

  • Dow: 17,062.45, +11.70, (0.07%)
  • S&P 500: 2,012.53, -0.90, (-0.04%)
  • Nasdaq: 4,825.35, +14.56, (0.30%)

And now, the top stories on Friday:

  1. The crude oil rig count fell for a sixth straight week, data from driller Baker Hughes showed. The combined tally of oil and gas rigs plummeted to the lowest level since May 2002, by 14 to 795. The number of active oil rigs fell by 9 to 605, the lowest level since July 30, 2010. West Texas Intermediate crude futures in New York rallied to as high as $US50.91 per barrel, after crossing $US50 for the first time since July on Thursday.
  2. Tesla got slammed with another downgrade this week, this time from Barclays. In a note, Brian Johnson and team cut their price target 5% to $US190 from $US180 and lowered their rating to “Underweight” from “Equal-Weight.” The analysts said the new Model X SUV would provide a “reality check” on margins; they see manufacturing challenges ahead and a slower-than-expected production ramp. Morgan Stanley cut its price target on the stock nearly 50% earlier this week.
  3. Lumber Liquidators shares surged as much as 30% before halving those gains in the final hour of trading. On Wednesday, the company said it had reached a $US10 million settlement with the Department of Justice. It was related to a 2013 inquiry into the use of illegally imported timber from Russia, in violation of the Lacey Act. The company plead guilty to violations. It is still under a DOJ investigation into its alleged use of China-sourced flooring with excessive levels of formaldehyde.
  4. Gap shares dropped as much as 7% after the retailer reported weaker-than-expected September sales. The company reported a 1% drop in Gap sales during the five weeks ending October 3 to $US1.46 billion, versus $US1.48 billion a year ago. Company-wide same-store sales dropped 1%, versus expectations for 1.6%.
  5. Wal-Mart announced that Brett Biggs will become its new chief financial officer, to succeed Charles Holley, who will retire at the end of the year. Biggs is currently the executive VP and CFO of Wal-Mart International. Holley has been CFO since December 2010.

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