Top Financial Stocks
Financial stocks were moderately higher, with the NYSE Financial Sector Index rising almost 0.3% while financial companies in the S&P 500 Index gained nearly 0.4%. The Philadelphia Housing Sector Index was 0.8% lower.
In economic news:
First-time jobless claims fell to a 50-year low on Thursday, slipping by 4,000 during the week ended March 10 from a downward-revised 230,000 the prior week. The four-week moving average also declined for the seventh time in nine weeks to 221,500, dropping by nearly 7,000 claims from month-ago levels. Continuing claims also stayed at favorable levels, falling by 17,000 over the four weeks ended March to a average of 1.891 million, or almost 30,000 below the four-week rolling average for the second week in February.
Import prices rose by 0.4% in February over January levels, which were revised 0.2 percentage point lower to an 0.8% rise. The February increase topped Wall Street estimates for a 0.3% month-over-month advance. Excluding petroleum, import prices rose by 0.5% for the second month in a row. The pace of growth was significantly slower for exports, climbing just 0.2% on a monthly basis following an 0.8% increase in January.
Home builders also remain extremely optimistic, with a March index score of 70, down 2 points from February. Among individual components, future sales were down 2 points at 78 while traffic declined by 3 points to 51. Manufacturing activity throughout the state of New York and a handful of adjacent locations in Connecticut and New Jersey heated up to a 22.5 reading in March, well ahead of expectations for a rise to a 15.0 from February's 13.1 reading. Factory activity next door in the region covered by the Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank eased slightly this month from the prior month, with its Business Outlook survey dropping to a 22.3 March reading following a 25.8 score in February.
Among financial stocks moving on news:
- Capstead Mortgage ( CMO ) declined more than 2% on Thursday, touching a session low of $8.60 a share, after the real estate investment trust cut its Q1 dividend by 15.8% compared with its most recent distribution. The upcoming $0.16 per share dividend is $0.03 per share less than Capstead's Q4 distribution and payable April 20 to common shareholders of record on March 29. The company also kept its dividend for its 7.50% Series E cumulative redeemable preferred stock (CMO.PRE) unchanged at $0.46875 per share. The Series E preferred stock dividend is payable April 16 to investors of record on March 29.
In other sector news:
+ Coastway Bancorp ( CWAY ) jumped out to a record high on Thursday, rising almost 23% to a best-ever $27.60 a share, after late Wedneday agreeing to a $125.6 million buyout offer from HarborOne ( HONE ). Under terms of the proposed transaction, HarborOne will pay $28.25 in cash for each Coastway share, representing a 25.6% premium over Wednesday's closing price. The deal is expected to close during the second half of 2018.
- Black Knight ( BKI ) declined Thursday, slipping just under 1% to a session low of $48.50 a share, after the financial software company said Bank of the West was expanding its use of Black Knight's LoanSphere Exchange. The bank currently uses Exchange to place title insurance orders and will now use the data and workflow management platform to order and track appraisals through the system. Exchange electronically connects mortgage lenders with over 25,000 services companies and provides lenders with a fast and secure way to aggregate data and centralize settlement services. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.
- Wells Fargo & Company ( WFC ) was hanging on to a slim gain in recent trade, turning around a nearly 1% decline soon after the opening bell, following reports Thursday it is facing sanctions after allegedly forcing more than half a million drivers to buy its auto insurance policies. Citing people with direct knowledge of the probes, Reuters said the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency is asking Wells Fargo which of its executives knew about the insurance scheme and whether they could have stopped the policy sales sooner.
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