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Facebook surges, global tensions weigh heavy on trading

Corporate earnings reports continued to drive stock market activity Thursday. The balance between positive and negative reports led to a standoff on prices.

The Dow Jones industrial average traded in a narrow range throughout the session, finishing with a loss of 2.83 points to 17,083.80. The Nasdaq composite index was down 1.59 points to 4,472.11, and the Standard & Poor’s Index added 0.98 points to a record 1,987.98.

The Department of Labor reported initial claims for jobless benefits fell by 19,000 in the past week to 284,000, the lowest number of applications since February 2006.

More earnings reports after the close could affect Friday trading. Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN) and Pandora Media (NYSE: P) reported weak performance in the second quarter and the shares are expected to fall. However, numbers from Starbucks (Nasdaq: SBUX) topped expectations.

Commodities traded lower. Gold fell $13.90 to $1,290.80 an ounce and oil dropped $1.05 to $102.70 a barrel.

Facebook (Nasdaq: FB) jumped 5.2 percent to a record $74.98 after saying second-quarter sales surged 61 percent. Under Armor Inc. (NYSE: UA) surged 15 percent after increasing its 2014 profit target.

Caterpillar Inc. (NYSE: CAT) sank 3.1 percent after forecasting full-year profit that fell short of estimates.

The S&P 500 rose 0.2 percent Wednesday as Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) helped push technology companies higher, while health care stocks rallied on earnings. The gauge has advanced 7.6 percent this year amid better-than-estimated corporate results and central-bank support.

The index trades at 18.2 times the reported earnings of its members, the highest since 2010.

Global equities advanced today as data showed euro-area manufacturing and services grew in July while Chinese factory activity rose to an 18-month high. Economic reports in the U.S. were mixed, with fewer new U.S. homes sold in June than forecast while jobless claims unexpectedly fell.

The International Monetary Fund lowered its outlook for global growth this year as expansions weaken from the U.S. to China and military conflicts raise the risk of a surge in oil prices.

Investors are also weighing the threat of new European Union sanctions targeting Russia over the Kremlin’s actions in Ukraine. The EU is preparing to sanction top Russian security officials, including the chiefs of the main successor agency to the Soviet-era KGB and foreign intelligence, over the conflict in Ukraine, according to a draft document obtained by Bloomberg.

The United States is pushing Europe to toughen its stance toward President Vladimir Putin a week after the Malaysian jet was hit by a missile that American officials say was probably fired from a Russian-supplied launcher. Russia denies involvement.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk resigned after two parties quit the ruling coalition and President Petro Poroshenko signaled his support for early elections.

Six of the 10 main S&P 500 groups advanced Thursday, with consumer shares advancing at least 0.3 percent to pace gains.

Nike Inc. (NYSEK NKE) jumped 1.6 percent for the biggest gain in the Dow.

Zillow Inc. (Nasdaq: Z) jumped 15 percent and Trulia Inc. (NYSE: TRLA) rallied 32 percent after a report said Zillow is seeking to acquire Trulia, according to people with knowledge of the matter, in a move to combine the two most-visited U.S. real estate websites.

Amazon sank 6.2 percent to $336.35. The world’s largest online retailer reported its biggest quarterly loss since 2012 as CEO Jeff Bezos builds more distribution warehouses, adds grocery deliveries and develops new smartphones and tablets.

The shares closed 0.1 percent higher Thursday.

Industrial stocks slid 0.5 percent to pace declines in the S&P 500.

Precision Castparts (NYSE: PCP) sank 5.5 percent for the biggest loss after reporting profit and sales that missed estimates.

Caterpillar tumbled 3.1 percent, the most since May and the biggest decline in the Dow. The largest maker of mining machinery forecast full-year sales and earnings that fell short of analysts’ estimates as it said there’s no sign of an upturn in the industry in 2014.

Housing shares plunged, with an S&P index of home builders sinking 4.9 percent for its biggest drop in a year.

Meritage Homes Corp. (NYSE: MTH) sank 3.9 percent and Toll Bros. Inc. (NYSE: TOL) slid 4.1 percent as all 11 members of the index retreated

D.R. Horton Inc. (NYSE: DHI) dropped 12 percent for the biggest loss and its worst day since November 2009. The largest U.S. homebuilder by revenue said its fiscal-third quarter earnings declined as the company’s sales margin shrank.

United Continental Holdings Inc. (NYSE: UAL) slid 2.4 percent and American Airlines Group Inc. (Nasdaq: AAL) lost 2.7 percent even as the two carriers disclosed dividends earlier in the day.

— Bloomberg contributed to this report.

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