No signs of agreement on the Federal budget, Southwest managing safety concerns, and Japan still wrestling with its troubled reactors. As we suggested last week, strong job numbers boosted the major indices to 2011 highs. Can the market keep up the momentum? And how is Aflac coming along with finding a new voice for its duck? Here are five things to watch on April 4, 2011:
1. Market Moves: While competing bids for the NYSE stole headlines, the major stock indices closed the week up again, the Dow finishing at a fresh 2011 high. One potential headwind: oil. Crude prices soared Friday to the highest levels since 2008. In disaster plagued Japan, numerous measures seemed to fail over the weekend, as emergency teams at Tepco's Fukushima Daiichi planet try to plug a reactor leak. The outflow has thus far led to apparently significant amounts of radioactive iodine spilled into the Pacific Ocean. After last week's upward move by the Nikkei, stocks in Tokyo opened up approximately 1 percent in Monday trading.
2. Fuselage Fallout: Southwest Airlines grounded 79 Boeing 737s on Saturday and canceled 300 flights after a piece of the fuselage on one ripped open during a flight the day before from Phoenix to Sacramento. Monday promises to be volatile for shares of the airline, in the first full trading session since the accident and ensuing impacts on business.
3. Blockbuster on the Block: Bankrupt video rental company Blockbuster finds itself the belle of the ball on Monday, as Dish Network, SK Telecom and Carl Icahn are among a list of suitors ready to have at it in a bankruptcy court auction in New York. What do the potential buyers see that we don't? All we ever found at Blockbuster were shelves full of movies we didn't want to rent. The Chronicles of Riddick? No, thanks.
4. The Budget Mess: ... as in, the Federal government doesn't have one come next weekend, with the latest stop-gap extension set to expire on Friday. While, further band-aids are possible, even a substantive agreement on spending cuts won't prevent the continued trench warfare in Congress surrounding government expenditure going forward. This week, House Republicans are expected to propose a $4 trillion reduction in spending over the next decade.
5. AFLAC!: Want to be the new voice of the Aflac duck? You're not alone, according to YouTube (it's not pretty). Hopefuls will cram into American Idol-style open casting calls across the country Monday to audition for the opportunity to do just that. Kudos to the insurance giant, though. They've cleaned up the Gilbert Gottfried-Japan mess with a solution that's bringing widespread positive engagement with the brand.