Stocks brushed off early weakness Thursday and have climbed back to positive turf on better than expected economic data and hopes for an end to the conflict in Ukraine.
While most recent economic statistics continue to be negatively impacted by harsh winter weather earlier in the season, the Philadelphia Fed found that business conditions improved significantly during March, fueling morning gains for all three major indices and reversing overnight losses tied to Fed Chair Janet Yellen's hawkish comments on U.S. interest rates.
And although the U.S. is still pushing forward on economic sanctions toward Russian businesses, the withdrawal of Ukraine troops from the strategically important Crimean peninsula and a possible end to the conflict is expected to rekindle global demand for riskier U.S. and European assets.
In economic news, 320,000 new jobless claims were filed for the week ended March 15, a gain of 5,000 the week prior, and less than estimates for an 8,000 gain. The four-week average fell slightly to 327,000.
While the housing market is still having a hard time getting back in its feet - evidenced by the 0.4% decline in existing home sales to a 4.60 million seasonally adjusted annual pace - this still was better than the 2.5% decline Wall Street was expecting. Leading economic indicators also were better than expected, improving 0.5% in February.
But it was the surprise 9.0 print for the Philly Fed business conditions index that generated today's buzz. The February index not only beat estimates for a 4.0 reading, reversing January's dismal negative 6.3 index score.
Crude oil was down $1.02 to $99.36 per barrel. Natural gas was down $0.09 to $4.37 per 1 million BTU. Gold was down $10.50 to $1,331.20 an ounce, while silver was down $0.46 to $20.37 an ounce. Copper was down $0.07 to $2.92 per pound.
Among energy ETFs, the United States Oil Fund was down 0.92% to $35.38 with the United States Natural Gas Fund was down 1.50% to $24.36. Amongst precious-metal funds, the Market Vectors Gold Miners ETF was up 0.99% to 25.70 while SPDR Gold Shares was up 0.17% to $128.33. The iShares Silver Trust was down 0.76% to $19.64.
Here's where the markets stand at mid-day:
NYSE Composite Index up 11.20 (+0.11%) to 10,370.70
Dow Jones Industrial Average up 112.29 (+0.69%) to 16,334.46
S&P 500 up 10.07 (+0.54%) to 1,870.84
Nasdaq Composite Index up 17.04 (+0.40%) to 4,324.65
Nikkei 225 Index down 1.65%
Hang Seng Index down 1.79%
Shanghai China Composite Index down 1.40%
FTSE 100 Index down 0.69%
CAC 40 up 0.20%
DAX down 0.30%
NYSE SECTOR INDICES
NYSE Energy Sector Index down 0.05%
NYSE Financial Sector Index up 0.43%
NYSE Healthcare Sector Index down 0.32%
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(+) QTWO +22.00%) Well received IPO jumps from $13 per share to $17.38
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(-) WLT (-13.5%) Downgraded by Bank of America, selling senior $200mln secured notes
(-) GES (-4.94%) Reported Q1 expected earnings below analyst forecasts
(-) XONE (-8.77%) Reported mixed Q4 earning, and below consensus 2014 guidance