An abrupt change at the helm of Symantec, the US antivirus maker, sent its shares more than a 10th lower on Friday, capping a challenging year for a group that remains one of the worst-performing members of the S&P 500.
Shares in Symantec fell 14 per cent to $17.95 after the company said it had replaced Steve Bennett, with Michael Brown, a board member, stepping in as interim chief executive. The shares closed at $18.20, down 12.9 per cent.
Mr Bennett, who had been in the post for less than two years, drove the software maker into new markets, including securing companies against data breaches.
A person familiar with the matter said the board had been concerned about the product strategy Mr Bennett was undertaking, and especially as some product development leaders left to join the group’s competitors.
Analysts at Jefferies downgraded Symantec from “buy” to “hold”, citing the prospect of exits by executives recruited by Mr Bennett and a lengthy search for a new chief.
“Given the broad corporate realignment, product direction and sales model changes that are already under way from the strategy crafted by Mr Bennett – and supported by the board – we believe a search for a new chief executive could be lengthy,” Jefferies analyst Aaron Schwartz said.
Nike shares slid after executives warned that currency swings would weigh on next year’s results, reversing gains following quarterly results after-market on Thursday.
Chief financial officer Donald Blair said he expected fiscal fourth-quarter sales to grow at a “high single-digit rate”, below the company’s future orders rate.
“This year’s devaluation of developing market currencies will be a significant drag on next year’s reported revenue, gross margin and profit growth,” he said.
“We remain committed to investing in the strategies that are driving our growth. As a result, we expect fiscal year 2015 earnings growth will be somewhat below our mid-teens target range.”
The comments countered better than expected third-quarter profits for the US athletics goods company and a 12 per cent rise in its order book to $10.9bn. Sales during the period, which runs to the end of February, rose 13 per cent to $7.0bn, also ahead of forecasts.
Nike shares declined 5.1 per cent to $75.21.
US utility Exelon led the S&P 500 higher after a broker upgrade from “neutral” to “outperform”.
Analysts at Credit Suisse said many of the issues weighing on Exelon and other power companies – low natural gas prices, an absence of demand growth following the recession, and irrational bidding strategies by uneconomic power plants – were fading.
“We believe expectations and fundamentals for competitive power have found a bottom, with the potential for a long-awaited recovery to take form over the next 12 months,” analyst Dan Eggers said. Exelon shares advanced 3.8 per cent to $32.55.
Zions Bancorp was under pressure after it failed to maintain a minimum capital ratio of 5 per cent in the Federal Reserve’s annual stress tests, the only bank of 30 tested to fall short.
The test, which included a severe recession and unemployment above 11 per cent, showed Zions’ tier one common capital as a percentage of risk-weighted assets falling to 3.5 per cent.
The bank said it would resubmit its capital plans. Zions shares declined 5.3 per cent to $31.24.
Visa led the Dow Jones Industrial Average after a federal appeals court reversed a lower-court ruling that allowed banks to charge retailers as much as 21 cents to process debit-card transactions.
Shares in Visa rose 0.7 per cent to $223.37.
The benchmark S&P 500 advanced for its fourth day in five, as analysts discounted comments by Janet Yellen that seemed to suggest that the Fed would raise interest rates sooner than expected.
The S&P 500 rose 0.5 per cent to 1,883.97, a fresh intraday record, but nudged down 0.29 per cent to close at 1,866.52.
The Dow slipped 0.2 per cent to 16,302.77. The technology-heavy Nasdaq Composite was down 0.98 per cent at 4,276.79.