Closing Update: Stocks Narrow Losses Near Close; Late Bargain-Shopping Lifts Shares Off Session Lows
Stocks trimmed earlier losses but finished mostly lower Thursday, after comments this morning by the European Central Bank president unnerved traders and sent them in pursuit of less risky assets.
Gold, the U.S. dollar and the Japanese yen all benefited early from today's risk averse mood, with only consumer staples and utility stocks - traditionally both defensive plays - the lone industry sectors to finish the day higher. Technology shares had the steepest declines today.
In remarks to reporters after the central bank left its benchmark borrowing rates unchange, ECB President Mario Draghi said the exchange rate between the euro and other currencies was important to growth and price stability, which many investors took as a sign the ECB may step to weaken its currency in following the euro's advance in recent days.
Closer to home, the economic news was mildly downbeat but appears to have had only limited impact on today's selloff. The Labor Department today said initial jobless claims came in at 366,000 for the week ended Feb. 2, down slightly from the prior week but was 6,000 higher than the expert consensus.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics also reported today the nation's business productivity dropped below economists' expectations, falling 2% during the final three months of 2012.
Crude oil for March delivery settled 80 cents lower at $95.84 per barrel. March natural gas fell 13 cents to finish at $3.29 per 1 million BTU. April gold reversed course near its late-day settlement, closing down $7.20 to $1,671.40 per ounce while March silver fell 45 cents to $31.40 per ounce. March copper fell 1 cent to $3.73 per pound.
Here's where the markets stood at the end of regular trading:
Dow Jones Industrial Average down 43.39 (-0.31%) to 13,943.13
S&P 500 down 2.82 (-0.19%) to 1,509.30
Nasdaq Composite Index down 3.35 (-0.11%) to 3,165.13
Hang Seng Index down 0.34%
Shanghai China Composite Index down 0.66%
FTSE 100 Index down 1.06%
(+) DV Upgraded by analysts at JPMorgan Chase to Neutral from Underweight after the for-profit educator handily beat Street estimates with its fiscal Q2 results.
(+) OXGN, Said its Zybrestat drug candidate when combined with Avastin continues to be well tolerated in patients with ovarian cancer during a second Phase II interim toxicity study.
(+) CBM, Q4 earnings of $0.24 per share crush the analyst consensus expecting a $0.13 profit in the biotech's December quarter.
(+) MCP (+2.91%) Upgraded to Neutral from Underweight by analysts at JPMorgan Chase. The firm raised its price target on the stock to $6 from $5.
(+) MMS (+5.01%, below new 52-week high) Reported Q1 earnings of $0.63 per share, ex one-time items, versus the Capital IQ consensus of $0.56. Revenues were $286.3 million, versus the analyst estimate of $285.01 million.
(-) AKAM Reported Q4 sales of $378 million, below estimates of $381.3 million. Earnings of $0.54 topped estimates by $0.04. The company also extended its $150 million share buyback program to February 1.
(-) RTIX, Q4 EPS of $0.04 in-line with forecasts. Revenue grows about 4% to $44.6 million but misses analyst estimates by $510,000. Issues downside Q1, FY13 guidance.
(-) GMCR, Q1 earnings of $0.76 per share beat estimates by $0.11 but the maker of the Keurig single-cup coffee system is forecasting Q2 sales growth of 14% to 18% - somewhat below what the Street has expected.