Midday Update: Upbeat Data, Easing Geo-Political Tensions Fuels Stock Market Gains
Stocks were holding constructive gains Thursday afternoon, with the S&P 500 challenging another record high and investors encouraged by continued calm in Ukraine, accommodative European central banks and better than expected job market data . Led by gains in industrials and financial stocks, the Dow Industrials hit a 6-week high while the Nasdaq Composite pierced another multi-year high on the strength of biotechs and Internet stocks. year high on the strength of biotechs and internet stocks.
Wall Street digested mixed economic data starting with an unexpected drop in new jobless claims, sliding 26,000 to 323,000 first-time applications for unemployment benefits during the week ended March 1, beating the consensus estimate for a 10,000 gain to 338,000 claims last week.
Q4 non-farm productivity was revised downward to a 1.8% reading from a previously reported 3.2% gain, trailing the Street consensus for a revision to 2.5%. Unit labor costs fell just 0.1% during the final three months of 2013, beating estimates for a revision to a negative 0.8% reading.
Finally, factory orders fell 0.7% in December, exceeding estimates for a 0.5% drop although it still marked improvement over a 2.0% decline the month prior. Orders excluding transportation rose 0.2%.
Overseas gains were fueled by interest-rate decisions by the European Central Bank and Bank of England, which both left their key interest rate unchanged. The ECB did not mention the risk of deflationary pressure, but pledged to keep rates low to stimulate the economy, efforts of which appear to be materializing. Overnight, Europe's bourses were underpinned by upbeat data on German factory orders and the French jobless rate.
Crude oil was down $0.60 to $100.86 per barrel. Natural gas was up $0.12 to $4.60 per 1 million BTU. Gold was up $8.60 to $1,349.00 an ounce, while silver was up $0.22 to $21.49 an ounce. Copper was up $0.01 to $3.22 per pound.
Among energy ETFs, the United States Oil Fund was down 0.22% to $36.16 with the United States Natural Gas Fund was up 1.46% to $25.67. Amongst precious-metal funds, the Market Vectors Gold Miners ETF was up 1.01% to 26.69 while SPDR Gold Shares were up 0.90% to $130.04. The iShares Silver Trust was up 1.77% to $20.72.
Here's where the markets stand at mid-day:
NYSE Composite Index up 62.91 (+0.60%) to 10,545.75
Dow Jones Industrial Average up 80.21 (+0.49%) to 16,440.39
S&P 500 up 7.03 (+0.38%) to 1,880.84
Nasdaq Composite Index up 9.85 (+0.23%) to 4,367.82
Nikkei 225 Index up 1.59%
Hang Seng Index up 0.55%
Shanghai China Composite Index up 0.32%
FTSE 100 Index up 0.19%
CAC 40 up 0.59%
DAX up 0.01%
NYSE SECTOR INDICES
NYSE Energy Sector Index up 0.57%
NYSE Financial Sector Index up 0.88%
NYSE Healthcare Sector Index up 0.46%
(+) PXLW (+53.8%) 10-K annual report reveals Apple ( AAPL ) and NEC each represented more than 10% of its revenue during 2013.
(+) IFON (+26.8%) Reports a $0.01 per share Q4 profit, reversing $0.08 loss during the same quarter last year.
(+) ADHD (+8.8%) FDA approves the company's Metadoxine extended-release drug candidate to treat cognitive dysfunctions.
(-) SPLS (-14.3%) Announces plans to close as many as 225 stores following disappointing earnings.
(-) ORBT (-15.2%) Reported a wider than expected Q4 loss.
(-) PLUG (-4.44%) Sells 3.9 mln shares to institutional investors at discounted $5.74 per share.