What Happened in the Stock Market Today

Markets Motley Fool

Stocks took a breather Monday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI) and the S&P 500 (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC) posting small losses.

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Today's stock market

Index Percentage Change Point Change
Dow (0.06%) (12.60)
S&P 500 (0.18%) (4.60)

Retail stocks had a particularly bad day today, with the SPDR S&P Retail ETF (NYSEMKT: XRT) off 1.9%. Gold rose on global tensions; the SPDR Gold Shares ETF (NYSEMKT: GLD) closed up 0.8%.

As for individual stocks, General Electric Company (NYSE: GE) announced leadership changes and a new board member, and Mazor Robotics (NASDAQ: MZOR) reported strong orders for its latest robot.

GE appoints activist to board

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This morning, General Electric announced it has appointed Ed Garden -- chief investment officer and founding partner of Nelson Peltz's activist investment firm Trian Fund Management -- to its board of directors. Trian became an investor in GE in 2015 when it acquired $2.5 billion in GE stock and had since been working with former CEO Jefferey Immelt on slimming down and reshaping the conglomerate. Garden replaces Robert Lane, who had been on the board for 12 years. GE shares closed down 3.9%.

"Like other GE shareholders, I am disappointed by the recent performance of GE's stock," said Garden in the press release issued by GE.  "But I continue to believe that GE represents an attractive long-term investment opportunity with significant upside."

The move comes on the heels of several shakeups at the highest levels of the company. John Flannery, after having taken the reins as CEO on Aug. 1, replaced Immelt as chairman a week ago, and on Friday, the departure of the CFO and two other top company officials was announced.

Flannery is obviously wasting no time in shaping GE's leadership team to prepare the organization for the changes he expects to bring. Today's announcement of a board seat for Trian indicates that either that Flannery views Trian's desires to slim down the company and improve profitability to be compatible with his own vision, or that he has no stomach for a prolonged proxy battle, such as the one Trian is waging with Proctor & Gamble. In any case, investors, after having cheered Flannery's arrival, seem oddly skeptical now that he is getting to work.

Mazor Robotics sees rising orders

Israeli surgical robotic provider Mazor Robotics reported today that orders for its Mazor X system continued to accelerate in the third quarter. The company took orders for 22 surgical robots last quarter, 19 of which were the newer Mazor X systems, and the backlog at the end of the quarter stood at 17 systems. In the second quarter, the company took orders for 19 systems and ended with a backlog of 14. Mazor shares gained 4.8% on the news. 

Besides demonstrating increasing demand for the company's latest product, the results seem to indicate that Mazor's partnership with Medtronic is working. In late August, the two companies announced that they were expanding their strategic relationship, with Medtronic assuming exclusive worldwide distribution of the Mazor X system.

"This quarter we transferred to Medtronic members of our talented capital sales team along with a solid sales pipeline," said Mazor CEO Ori Hadomi in the press release. "This transition was performed in a smooth and effective manner and we maintained robust sales activity during the transition period."

Mazor is not yet profitable, but sales are growing rapidly, up 87% in the second quarter. Industry giant Intuitive Surgical has paved the way for surgical robots, and Mazor is now extending the technology into precision spine and brain surgery. The approach seems to be getting some traction, and investors are taking notice, with shares up 140% so far this year.

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Jim Crumly owns shares of ISRG. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends ISRG. The Motley Fool owns shares of MDT. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.