Market Wrap for Thursday, March 7: Stocks Record Small Gains; ECB Holds Benchmark Rate Steady
Strong U.S. jobless claims data and better than expected growth in consumer credit helped the stock market to record small gains on Thursday.
The euro was also stronger on the session after the European Central Bank left its benchmark interest rate unchanged. The Dow Jones Industrial Average hit an intra-day all-time high for the third consecutive trading session as the market continues to advance amid low volatility conditions.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed up 33 points, or 0.23 percent, to 14,329.
The S&P 500 rose a little less than 3 points, or 0.18 percent, to 1,544.
The Nasdaq Composite climbed 10 points, or 0.30 percent, to close at 3,232.
Initial claims fell from 347,000 for the week ending February 23 to 340,000 for the week ending March 2. This was well ahead of consensus estimates which called for initial jobless claims to rise to 350,000.
Continuing claims increased from 3.091 million for the week ending February 16 to 3.094 million for the week ending February 23. This was still better than the consensus estimate which called for an increase to 3.100 million in the period.
The U.S. trade deficit widened in January. The deficit was $44.4 billion for the month versus $38.1 billion in December. This was also wider than the consensus, which expected the trade deficit to widen to $43 billion.
Looking ahead, a stronger greenback, weaker euro, and slowing growth in Asia will likely lead to slower export growth in the near term.
Consumer credit continued to expand in January according to the most recent data. Consumer credit rose by $16.2 billion in January versus an increase of $15.1 billion in December. This was much better than the consensus which expected an increase of $12.8 billion in the month.
Crude oil was mixed on Thursday with WTI crude adding better than 1 percent while Brent contracts were close to unchanged. At last check, NYMEX crude futures had climbed 1.22 percent to $91.53 while Brent futures were unchanged at $111.06. Natural gas jumped more than 3 percent on the day to $3.58.
Precious metals rose very marginally on the day. At last check, COMEX gold futures were up 0.09 percent to $1,576.30 while silver had also risen 0.09 percent to $28.82.
In the agricultural complex, most grains were higher, with wheat climbing nearly 2 percent. Corn was last trading up around 0.40 percent. In softs, cocoa, coffee and orange juice concentrate futures all traded up 1 percent or better. Sugar contracts added more than 3 percent.
Treasuries took a dive on the day with the iShares Barclays 20+ Year Treasury Bond ETF (NYSE: TLT) trading down around 0.75 percent near the close of equities. Falling prices drove yields higher on the session.
Although the 2-Year Note yield was flat at 0.25 percent, the 5-Year yield rose five basis points to 0.85 percent.
The 10-Year Note yield and the 30-Year Bond yield also added five basis points apiece to 1.99 percent and 3.20 percent, respectively.
The U.S. dollar recorded a moderate loss on the day. At last check, the PowerShares DB US Dollar Index Bullish ETF (NYSE: UUP), which tracks the performance of the greenback versus a basket of foreign currencies, was down 0.44 percent to $22.39.
The closely watched EUR/USD was last trading down 0.30 percent to $1.3010. Other movers included the USD/JPY, which rose 0.26 percent, and the GBP/USD which fell a little less than 0.50 percent.
Volatility and Volume
The VIX continued to fall on Thursday along with market expectations for volatility. The VIX closed down 3.47 percent at 13.06.
Volume was way below current trends on the session with under 63 million SPDR S&P 500 ETF (NYSE: SPY) shares trading hands compared to a 3-month daily average of 134 million.
PetSmart (NASDAQ: PETM) lost more than 6 percent after the company released its fiscal fourth-quarter earnings results and issued disappointing guidance.
Navistar International (NYSE: NAV) was trading up better than 27 percent near the close after releasing bullish Q1 results.
Ciena (NASDAQ: CIEN) soared more than 18 percent after the company's fiscal first-quarter financial results.
Shares of Gap (NYSE: GPS) jumped nearly 4 percent nearing the close after bullish monthly sales data was leaked early in the session.
Vail Resorts (NYSE: MTN) climbed around 7 percent after the company released positive Q2 results and upped its dividend.
Semtech Corporation (NASDAQ: SMTC) surged around 8 percent after its fiscal fourth-quarter and full-year financial results.
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