Hurricane Matthew hit some insurance stocks on Thursday. Image source: NOAA.
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The stock market had a mixed day on Thursday, with some major market averages gaining ground while others fell modestly. Investors were stuck in a holding pattern as they waited for important economic data to come out tomorrow, when the Department of Labor releases employment figures for the month of September. Investors expect relatively modest gains in nonfarm payroll numbers of 172,000, with the unemployment rate remaining below 5% but average hourly earnings rising faster than in previous months. Yet even on a quiet trading day, some stocks fell considerably on Thursday. Among the worst performers were Twitter (NYSE: TWTR), Universal Insurance Holdings (NYSE: UVE), and The Buckle (NYSE: BKE).
Twitter sees buyout interest drop
Twitter plunged 20% in the wake of speculation that several major companies that some had expected to make a bid for the social-media player are simply not interested in the microblogging provider. Reports cited both Google and Disney as being unlikely to make bids for Twitter, and that leaves a short list of possible acquirers for the ailing target. Given how much of the stock's recent gains have centered on buyout interest, anything short of a solid deal for Twitter could send the stock falling even further. Twitter said that it expects to reach closure on the issue by the end of October, but that doesn't guarantee a positive result.
Universal braces for impact
Universal Insurance Holdings fell 12% as investors reacted negatively to the possible impact that Hurricane Matthew might have on its financials. Universal has a particularly strong concentration of policy exposure to the Florida market, and the latest projections suggest that the Sunshine State might end up taking a double-hit from the massive hurricane under certain models. The insurer today noted that it had completed the placement of its reinsurance programs, and it emphasized that thanks to some of the efforts it has made, Universal's retention of catastrophic risk related to Florida could lead to liability losses of as little as $5 million. Nevertheless, investors have bought into the idea of just how large a storm Matthew is and the size of its potential impact on insurers providing coverage to the area.
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Buckle sees sales dry up
Finally, The Buckle dropped 10%. The retailer reported a dismal 15% decline in same store sales for the month of September, continuing its recent string of double-digit percentage declines in comps. The Buckle has been one of many victims of the difficult environment for retailers in general, but it has gotten hit harder than many of its peers, with comparable-store declines of 10% or more in seven out of nine months so far in 2016. Unless the retailer can reverse its adverse trends, then today's drop in the stock price to its lowest level since 2009 could prove to be just the beginning of an even more extreme downward move for The Buckle.
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