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Quiet day on Wall St. to kick off Christmas week; Sears to divest famed DieHard battery business

Stock tick up in pre-Christmas session

NEW YORK — Stocks closed with modest gains Monday on Wall Street, lifting the market's major indexes to new record highs.

Trading was mostly muted as investors look ahead to a shortened holiday week.

Technology, industrial and health care stocks accounted for most of the gains, outweighing losses elsewhere in the market. Utilities took the heaviest losses, a signal that investors were shifting money away from more defensive sectors.

Boeing jumped after the company said its CEO was resigning immediately as the crisis related to its 737 Max aircraft drags on. Homebuilders are broadly lower after the Commerce Department said U.S. new home sales increased in November at a slower rate than analysts expected.

"Right now, a lot of people have gone home for the year and the path of least resistance is higher," said Sameer Samana, senior global market strategist at Wells Fargo Investment Institute. "It's hard to see any kind of meaningful trend change between now and the end of the year."

Momentum for stocks has been clearly upward for months, driving the major stock indexes to record highs. The benchmark S&P 500 index has finished with a weekly gain in 10 out of the past 11 weeks.

Sears sells DieHard to parts chain

NEW YORK — Sears has sold the DieHard car battery brand as the struggling retailer continues to shed assets to raise cash.

The company, created by Sears in 1967, was acquired by Advance Auto Parts for $200 million, the companies said Monday.

Sears will still be able to sell DieHard goods in its stores. And it will still be able to create products for the brand as long as they are not auto-related, like the DieHard boots it currently sells.

Advance Auto Parts said it will sell DieHard auto batteries in its more than 4,800 stores and plans to expand it into batteries for other types of vehicles.

DieHard was one of the many brands launched by Sears during its more than 130 years in business. But as the company fell on hard times, it's been shedding some of its famous names to raise cash. In 2017, Sears sold its 90-year-old Craftsman tool brand to Stanley Black & Decker Inc.

Sears, which had 4,000 stores at its peak, sought bankruptcy protection last year and is now owned by Transform Holdco. By early next year, it will operate fewer than 200 stores.

Sales of new homes up in Nov.

WASHINGTON — U.S. sales of newly built homes increased 1.3 percent in November from the prior month, a sign that low mortgage rates are pushing up purchases as well as prices.

The Commerce Department said Monday that new single-family houses sold at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 719,000 last month. Sales surged in the Northeast and West, but they were flat in the Midwest and fell in the South.

New-home sales have increased 9.8 percent so far this year. The increase largely reflects a steady decline in mortgage rates, which has made borrowing cheaper and brought more people seeking to upgrade their house into the market.

Still, prices have moved upward as a result of construction lagging demand. The median new-home sales price was $330,800, up 7.3 percent from a year ago.

Sports betting giant plans merger, IPO

BOSTON — Sports betting giant DraftKings plans to merge with two other firms and go public, the company announced Monday.

DraftKings said it will complete its merger with gambling tech firm SBTech and acquisition company Diamond Eagle Acquisition sometime in the first half of 2020.

DraftKings said the combined company will be valued at $3.3 billion, and it will have $500 million on hand once the deal is complete.

The new company will retain the DraftKings moniker and company co-founder and CEO Jason Robins will continue to lead it. DraftKings said it will also reincorporate in Nevada but remain physically headquartered in Boston, where it's one of the city's largest tech companies, with roughly 600 workers in its recently opened headquarters in the Back Bay neighborhood.

The three companies are merging through a special purpose acquisition, a method of taking a company public that differs from the more familiar initial public offering, or IPO, process, DraftKings said.

The new company will effectively assume Diamond Eagle's publicly-traded status, though under a new stock ticker symbol. It will also receive a $400 million infusion from the Los Angeles-based company.

Demand for durable goods declines

WASHINGTON — Orders to U.S. factories for big-ticket manufactured goods fell by the largest amount in six months, led by a large decrease in orders for defense aircraft and parts. A closely watched category that tracks business investment ticked up 0.1 percent.

Orders for durable goods fell 2 percent last month, the biggest decline since May, the Commerce Department said Monday. Orders have fallen in two of the past three months. October's number was revised down to 0.2 percent from a 0.6 percent gain.

Transportation equipment orders fell 5.9 percent, its biggest decline since May. Excluding transportation, new orders were flat.

Most analysts had expected a rebound in overall orders of more than 1 percent for November, likely forecasting a bounce due to the end of a workers strike at General Motors. The strike lasted 40 days over two months and dragged down durable goods orders in September and October.

Orders for motor vehicles and parts did rebound, up 1.9 percent, but it wasn't enough to offset the large decrease in defense aircraft orders.

Shipyard jobs cut at Pearl Harbor

HONOLULU — New U.S. Navy contracting terms have resulted in a pullout by a major contractor that is expected to result in the loss of hundreds of jobs at Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard, officials said.

BAE Systems PLC will no longer perform Navy surface ship repair at Pearl Harbor, eliminating about 325 jobs, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported.

The contracts with private shipyards and other firms for maintenance on non-nuclear surface ships.

More than 6,000 civilian and military personnel primarily work on submarines at Pearl Harbor. 

Jeep museum is planned for Toledo

TOLEDO, Ohio — An interactive museum devoted to the innovation and history of the Jeep is expected to open in Ohio in 2022, project organizers said.

The Jeep Experience will be housed in a 56,000 square-foot building in metropolitan Toledo, a non-profit working group behind the museum announced last week.

Planners are keeping the location quiet while the contract is finalized.

The project is expected to cost $40 million, and the group anticipates about 250,000 visitors per year.

An outdoor track where Jeeps can be driven will be among the museum's exhibits, group members said, and there's been discussion about building a hotel nearby. The group has worked to model the facility around the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee and the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Ky.

Jeep's parent company, Fiat Chrysler Automotive, has been very involved in the planning, groups members said.

The first Jeep models were manufactured in Toledo starting in the 1940s. Today, thousands of people work on assembly lines at the Fiat Chrysler plant in Toledo where a model of Jeep Wrangler and the Jeep Gladiator, a new truck, are made.

More high-level snooping at Swiss bank

BERLIN — Swiss bank Credit Suisse said Monday that a second former top executive was snooped on at the behest of its then-chief operating officer, who resigned earlier this year over another such case.

Credit Suisse said investigations found that Peter Goerke was "placed under observation by a third-party firm on behalf of Credit Suisse for a period of several days in February 2019." It said investigators concluded the operation was ordered by Pierre-Olivier Bouee, then the chief operating officer. Credit Suisse announced in October that Bouee and the head of its global security services had quit over a decision to snoop on a former wealth management chief, Iqbal Khan, who had joined rival Swiss bank UBS.

The bank said that those responsible failed to disclose the earlier observation of Goerke, who was its personnel chief, when they were questioned about the Khan case. It said they also "took care not to leave any identifiable trace in the bank's systems" of the operation.

The board has decided to formally terminate Bouee's contract, Credit Suisse said.

Wire reports

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