Stocks gain after data offset rate-rise concerns

Stock prices rebounded Thursday, recovering most of the losses in the previous session after interest rate comments by Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen.

The Dow Jones industrial average, down 113 points Wednesday, gained 108.88 points to 16,331.05. The Nasdaq composite index was up 11.68 points to 4,319.29 and the Standard & Poor’s 500 index added 11.24 points to 1,872.01.

The Conference Board reported its index of leading economic indicators rose in February, a sign the economy could begin picking up steam over the next six to nine months.

The Department of Labor said initial claims for jobless benefits rose by 5,000 in the past week to 320,000.

Commodities moved lower Thursday. Gold fell $10.80 to $1,330.50 an ounce and oil was down 27 cents to $98.90 a barrel.

Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) gained 2.7 percent after Morgan Stanley said the company’s anticipated Office software for Apple Inc.’s (Nasdaq: AAPL) iPad could deliver $1.2 billion a year in billings.

AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) jumped 3.4 percent to lead a rally in phone stocks. Guess? Inc. (NYSE: GES) slipped 3.4 percent after its full-year earnings projection trailed analysts’ predictions.

About 6.4 billion shares changed hands on U.S. exchanges, 3.2 percent less than the three-month average.

The equities benchmark fell 0.6 percent yesterday after Yellen said the central bank’s stimulus program could end this fall and benchmark interest rates could rise about six months later.

The Fed had previously said it would not raise rates for a considerable period, without specifying a time frame.

Quarterly Fed forecasts also showed more officials predicting that the benchmark rate, now close to zero, will rise to at least 1 percent at the end of 2015 and 2.25 percent a year later.

Data Thursday showed the world’s largest economy will strengthen after the weather-induced slowdown in the first quarter, as the index of leading indicators rose more than forecast in February.

Another report indicated the number of Americans filing applications for unemployment benefits held last week near the lowest level in almost four months, a sign the labor market continues to strengthen.

Investors also watched the situation in Ukraine, where the government in Kiev said Wednesday that it plans to reinforce its eastern border with Russia and withdraw troops from Crimea, ceding control of the Black Sea peninsula as tensions remained high over Russian moves to annex the breakaway region.

AT&T jumped 3.4 percent, the most since January 2013, to $34.09 to lead gains in the Dow.

The KBW Bank Index jumped 2.2 percent before the results of annual reviews known as stress tests.

After the market close, the Fed said 29 of the 30 largest banks subjected to the tests have sufficient capital to withstand a deep recession while continuing to pay dividends.

Zions Bancorporation (Nasdaq: ZION) is the only lender that came in below one of the Fed’s main capital thresholds.

All 30 banks, including Zions, exceeded the minimum in a separate scenario of rising interest rates, a sign of improved capital levels in the banking system since the 2008 financial crisis.

JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE: JPM) rallied 3.1 percent to $60.11, the highest since 2000, during regular trading. After the close of markets, Zions fell 0.8 percent to $32.72.

Nike Inc. (NYSE: NKE) jumped 0.6 percent to $79.71 in late trading. After the market close, the world’s largest sporting-goods company posted third-quarter profit that topped analysts’ estimates as shoe sales gained in North America.

Teradata Corp. (NYSE: TDC) had the biggest advance in the benchmark S&P index during regular hours, rising 4.6 percent to $48.20.

The Dayton, Ohio-based company said it has been selected by NTT Docomo Inc., Japan’s largest wireless operator, to implement a marketing operations platform for its consumer credit-services business.

Microsoft increased 2.7 percent to $40.33, the highest since July 2000.

CEO Satya Nadella is expected to debut a version of Office for the iPad at an event next week.

Morgan Stanley maintained its “equalweight” view on the stock.

Guess declined 3.4 percent to $27.78 after forecasting earnings for fiscal 2015 of $1.40 to $1.60 a share, missing the average analyst estimate of $2.03 a share.

The apparel maker predicted a first-quarter net loss of 5 cents to 9 cents a share.

— Bloomberg contributed to this report.

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