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J.C. Penney, Viacom, General Electric: Stocks That Defined the Week

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08/16/2019 | 04:57pm EDT

By Francesca Fontana

Major U.S. stock indexes fell for the week on renewed concerns that the economy could be headed toward a recession, fueled by an inversion of the yield curve and other market signals flashing red.

In individual stocks, J.C. Penney Co. said it would start selling secondhand clothes, Viacom Inc. and CBS Corp. agreed to get back together, and Bernie Madoff whistleblower Harry Markopolos now has his sights set on General Electric Co.

J.C. Penney Co.

The hand-me-down is going mainstream. J.C. Penney and Macy's both said during earnings announcements this week that they will start selling secondhand clothes in partnership with thredUP Inc. as department stores continue to lose shoppers to newer forms of retailing. To be sure, the booming market for used goods isn't immune to the pressures facing retailers that sell new products. The RealReal Inc., an online marketplace for preowned luxury goods, said Tuesday that discounting by department stores weighed on sales in the most recent quarter. J.C. Penney shares gained 2.2% Thursday after its earnings announcement.

Apple Inc.

Apple received an early Christmas present from President Trump when the White House on Tuesday announced a delay in some planned tariffs on Chinese-produced goods. "We're doing this for Christmas season, just in case some of the tariffs would have an impact on U.S. customers," Mr. Trump said. The tariffs, including 10% levies on mobile phones and laptop computers, were originally set to take effect on Sept. 1 and would have seriously hampered Apple's annual iPhone launch that typically takes place in late September. Apple's share price had fallen 6% since Mr. Trump first announced the tariffs on Aug. 1 -- double the drop of the S&P 500 in that time. Apple shares gained 4.2% Tuesday.

BlackRock Inc.

The world's biggest money manager now owns some of America's best-known brands. BlackRock said it purchased a stake in the company that controls Sports Illustrated, Nine West and Aéropostale. The deal was the first for a new BlackRock private-equity fund known as Long Term Private Capital, part of an effort to bulk up alternative businesses that lock up money for longer and charge higher fees. BlackRock's stake in Authentic Brands Group LLC is worth roughly $875 million, according to The Wall Street Journal. The deal was announced Sunday and shares fell 2.3% Monday

Rite Aid Corp.

Rite Aid found someone willing to nurse the pharmacy chain back to health. The company appointed Heyward Donigan as chief executive Monday, saying her experience leading health-care companies would help Rite Aid confront competition that dampened sales and caused job cuts. Shares of the third-largest U.S. pharmacy chain have plunged more than 50% this year. "I recognized the opportunity to really revitalize Rite Aid," Ms. Donigan told The Wall Street Journal. Ms. Donigan was chief executive of Sapphire Digital, a website for analyzing health-care plans that was previously known as Vitals. She is now one of 33 women leading the largest 500 U.S. publicly traded companies by revenue, according to corporate-research firm Equilar. Rite Aid shares fell 2.4% Monday.

Viacom Inc.

Viacom and CBS Corp. are getting back together. Thirteen years after the two companies split they agreed Tuesday to merge in an all-stock deal that would reunite the media empire of mogul Sumner Redstone. The combined company is valued at roughly $30 billion, combining Viacom properties such as MTV, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central and the Paramount film and TV studio with CBS's broadcast network and Showtime premium network. However, it would still be much smaller than competitors. Analysts say CBS and Viacom could become a buyout target, and further acquisitions by the merged company could make it a more attractive one. Viacom shares gained 2.4% Tuesday while CBS shares added 1.4%.

General Electric Co.

Fraud at General Electric? That's what Harry Markopolos, the accounting expert who raised red flags about Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme, is claiming. In a research report posted online Thursday, Mr. Markopolos alleged the struggling conglomerate has masked the depths of its problems, resulting in inaccurate and fraudulent financial filings with regulators. The report, reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, is a mixture of detailed financial analysis and sweeping claims. A GE spokeswoman told the Journal that GE stands behind its financials. "While we can't comment on the detailed content of a report that we haven't seen, the allegations we have heard are entirely false and misleading," she said in an email. General Electric shares plummeted 11.3% Thursday.

Verizon Communications Inc.

Verizon is saying goodbye to Tumblr. The telecom giant has agreed to sell the blogging website to the owner of popular online-publishing tool WordPress.com, the companies said Monday. Tumblr once fetched a purchase price of more than $1 billion, but Automattic Inc. will buy Tumblr for an undisclosed sum that The Wall Street Journal reported isn't material to Verizon. A decision last year by Verizon to ban adult content on Tumblr alienated some users. Automattic's CEO says the company plans to maintain that policy and sees the site as complementary to WordPress.com. "It's just fun," he said of Tumblr. "We're not going to change any of that." Verizon shares rose 1.2% Tuesday.

Write to Francesca Fontana at francesca.fontana@wsj.com

Stocks mentioned in the article
ChangeLast1st jan.
APPLE 0.36% 220.7 Delayed Quote.39.91%
BLACKROCK INC. 0.80% 439.18 Delayed Quote.11.80%
CBS CORPORATION -1.70% 43.3 Delayed Quote.-0.96%
DJ INDUSTRIAL 0.13% 27110.8 Delayed Quote.16.07%
GENERAL ELECTRIC COMPANY -0.21% 9.36 Delayed Quote.23.65%
J C PENNEY COMPANY INC -5.98% 0.8866 Delayed Quote.-14.75%
NASDAQ 100 0.46% 7888.7863 Delayed Quote.24.69%
NASDAQ COMP. 0.40% 8186.016151 Delayed Quote.23.23%
PARAMOUNT GROUP INC -0.98% 13.17 Delayed Quote.4.86%
RITE AID CORPORATION -5.73% 7.08 Delayed Quote.899.58%
S&P 500 0.26% 3005.7 Delayed Quote.19.90%
VERIZON COMMUNICATIONS 0.62% 59.87 Delayed Quote.5.83%
VIACOM -1.60% 25.75 Delayed Quote.0.19%
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