Closing Update: Positive Retailer Earnings Carry The Day for Stocks - Record Close for S&P 500
Stocks added to smallish gains early, with all three of the major market gauges finishing higher Thursday after better-than-expected earnings from a new batch of retailers helped alleviate worries over fading consumer strength. A smaller-than-expected drop in durable good orders was supportive for equities, while an unexpected rise in new jobless claims last week was largely attributed to a holiday-shortened reporting period.
The modest gain was enough to push the S&P 500 through tough closing resistance at 1850; its close above that line, at 1854 is a record high.
Retail stocks rose, supported by better-than-expected quarterly results by J.C. Penney ( JCP ) and Best Buy ( BBY ). JCP encouraged investors by saying it's now in the final year of a lengthy turnaround. The struggling department store retailer also drew support after posting an adjusted Q4 net loss of $0.68 per share, beating analyst expectations by $0.19, while revenue narrowly missed expectations after a 2.6% slide from year-ago levels. Same-store sales rose 2%.
In remarks to the Senate Banking Committee, Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen acknowledged the recent weakness in U.S. economic data was likely due to harsh winter weather but she also said the central bank was unlikely to change its policy of a gradual tapering of its stimulus efforts unless conditions seriously worsened.
Nine of the 10 industry sectors in the S&P 500 rose, paced by gains for shares of technology and materials companies. Utilities were the lone decliners today.
Crude oil for March delivery settled 19 cents lower at $102.15 per barrel while March natural gas shed 3 cents today to $4.51 per 1 million BTU. April gold rose $3.80 to $1,331.80 per ounce while March silver added 6 cents to finish at $21.35 per ounce. May copper fell 2 cents to $3.20 per pound.
Here's where the U.S. markets stood at end-of-day:
Dow Jones Industrials Average up 74.30 (+0.46%) to 16,272.71
S&P 500 up 9.14 (+0.50%) to 1,854.30
Nasdaq Composite up 26.87 (+0.63%) to 4,318.93
Hang Seng Index up 1.74%
Shanghai China Composite Index up 0.30%
FTSE 100 Index up 0.16%
(+) COA, Agrees to $385 mln buyout by Essilor International (EL.PA) and the Canadian direct-to-consumer retailer receiving $11.17 (C$12.45) a share from the French vision-care products company - a 19% premium over COA's closing price Wednesday.
(+) OCN, Said it was working with the New York Department of Financial Services to resolve the hold on a $2.7 bln purchase of mortgage-servicing rights from Wells Fargo ( WFC ). Also, Q4 EPS beats by $0.05. Revenue in-line after 135% rise to $556 mln.
(+) IQNT, Shares climb to a 30-month high after the networking equipment company reported Q4 net income of $0.27 per share, topping estimates by $0.08, while revenue also narrowly eclipsed analyst expectations.
(-) INO, Prices offering of 18.96 mln shares of its common stock at $2.90 each.
(-) CTRX, Q4 earnings miss views, same-store sales drop.
(-) CHS, Swung to a fiscal Q4 loss. posted earnings expectations as same-store sales fell and increased promotional activity hurt margins.