Nation roundup for November 19


Warnings spared lives in tornadoes

WASHINGTON, Ill. (AP) — When a cluster of violent thunderstorms began marching across the Midwest, forecasters were able to draw a bright line on a map showing where the worst of the weather would go.

Their uncannily accurate predictions — combined with television and radio warnings, text-message alerts and storm sirens — almost certainly saved lives as rare late-season tornadoes dropped out of a dark autumn sky. Although the storms howled through 12 states and flattened entire neighborhoods within a matter of minutes, the number of dead stood at just eight.

By Monday, another, more prosaic reason for the relatively low death toll also came to light: In the hardest-hit town, many families were in church.

“I don’t think we had one church damaged,” said Gary Manier, mayor of Washington, Ill., a community of 16,000 about 140 miles southwest of Chicago.

The tornado cut a path about an eighth of a mile wide from one side of Washington to the other and damaged or destroyed as many as 500 homes. The heavy weather also battered parts of Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri, Indiana, Ohio, Tennessee, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and New York.

Zimmerman faces assault charge

APOPKA, Fla. (AP) — George Zimmerman was charged Monday with assault after deputies were called to the home where he lived with his girlfriend, who claimed he pointed a shotgun at her during an argument, authorities said.

Zimmerman pushed the woman out of the house and barricaded the door with furniture, Chief Deputy Dennis Lemma said at a news conference hours after the arrest. The girlfriend, Samantha Scheibe, provided deputies with a key to the home and they were able to push the door that had been barricaded.

Lemma says Zimmerman was compliant when deputies came to the house.

“The easiest way to describe it is rather passive. He’s had the opportunity to encounter this before,” he said.

Zimmerman was charged with aggravated assault with a weapon, battery and criminal mischief.

Stock market hits milestones, dips

NEW YORK (AP) — The stock market broke through two milestones Monday before giving up nearly all its gains late in the day.

Stocks rose from the opening bell, lifting the Dow Jones industrial average above 16,000 for the first time and the Standard & Poor’s 500 index past 1,800, two big markers in a historic bull market. But by the end of day, both indexes had fallen below those levels.

“The market is always a little hesitant when it gets to round numbers,” says Ed Cowart, managing director at Eagle Asset Management. “You don’t want to be the first guy buying at 16,000 on the Dow.”

The Dow managed to eke out a gain over Friday’s close with a late push higher, ending just 24 points shy of 16,000.

Both the Dow and the S&P 500 are on track for their best year in a decade and have soared more than 140 percent since bottoming out in the Great Recession more than four years ago.

Investors have pushed stocks up sharply this year as the U.S. economy improves, companies report record profits and the Federal Reserve keeps up its easy-money policies.

“The Fed is still pumping money into the system, which is helping fuel the market,” says Frank Fantozzi, CEO of Planned Financial Services, a wealth manager. “There’s much more confidence in the market.”

The Dow has risen for six weeks straight and is up 22 percent so far this year. The market hasn’t risen that much in a whole year since 2003.

The Dow has closed above round-number milestones two times this year: 14,000 in early February and 15,000 in early May. The quick climb has led some experts to wonder whether stocks are too high and set to tumble.

Brad McMillan, chief investment officer for Commonwealth Financial, says he’s not worried yet, but notes three ingredients of market froth are already present: investors borrowing record amounts to buy stock, more companies going public for the first time and Main Street investors putting money into the market after years of pulling out.

“Greed is taking over from fear,” McMillan says.

It’s not clear whether stocks have become expensive yet or are just fairly priced. One measure of value, the ratio of stock prices to forecast earnings, is at 15 for S&P 500 companies. That is slightly below the 15-year average of 16.2, according to FactSet, a data provider.

Including this year’s gains, the S&P 500 is up 165 percent from the start of the current bull market in March 2009, 56 months ago.

Bull markets dating back to the Great Depression have averaged 57 months, according to S&P Capital IQ, a research firm, however the duration of bull markets has varied greatly over time. The bull market of the 1990s lasted 113 months, for instance.

Investors have been betting that Fed stimulus policies are not likely to change soon. Janet Yellen, the nominee to succeed Ben Bernanke as Fed chairman, indicated in congressional testimony last week that she was prepared to keep interest rates low to help the economy.

Investors were also encouraged by a Chinese government announcement late Friday that it plans to open state industries to greater competition and allow more foreign investment. Many big U.S. companies have come to rely on emerging markets like China to boost revenue. About half of the revenue in the S&P 500 comes outside the U.S.

The S&P 500 closed down 6.65 points, or 0.4 percent, at 1,791.53. The Dow rose 14.32 points, or 0.09 percent, to 15,976.02.

The Nasdaq composite fell 36.90 points, or 0.9 percent, to 3,949.07.

Among stocks making big moves, Boeing rose $2.28, or 1.7 percent, to $138.36, the biggest gain in the Dow. The plane maker booked $100 billion in orders at the opening of the Dubai Airshow.

Tyson Foods jumped 65 cents, or 2.3 percent, to $29.42. The food company said its net income surged 41 percent in the latest quarter on higher sales of beef and chicken. The company raised its dividend 50 percent.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.67 percent from 2.71 percent.

 

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