Dow, S&P 500 push to best 1st quarter since 1998
The Nasdaq has its best start since 1991. Apple falls below $600. Health care and energy shares lead the market. Consumer spending hits a 7-month high in February. A payments breach hits a credit-card processor. Groupon discloses accounting problems.
It was a good month and a great quarter for investors as stocks ended March with their best first-quarter performances since at least 1998.
The major averages moved higher in part due to improved consumer confidence and the largest gain in consumer spending in seven months.
At the same time, health care and energy stocks were the market leaders -- the former because of investor speculation that the Supreme Court will void part or all of the U.S. health care law. Higher oil prices boosted energy shares. Crude oil (-CL) settled up 24 cents to $103.02 a barrel.
The big question is whether stocks will repeat their pattern of the past two years. Stocks continued to rally into April in 2011 and April 2010 but slumped through the late spring and summer before a fall rally set in. While the quarter has been great, the market performance in March has been more subdued.
The Dow Jones industrials ($INDU) closed up 66 points to 13,212. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index ($INX) added 5 points to 1,408, but the Nasdaq Composite Index ($COMPX) fell 4 points to 3,092. The Nasdaq-100 Index ($NDX) was off 7 points to 2,755.
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Apple (AAPL) was largely the cause for the Nasdaq-100's under-performance. The shares were down $10.31 to $599.55 after falling to as low as $597.94. It subtracted nearly 8 points from the index.
The company announced Thursday it will support efforts to improve working conditions at Foxconn, one of its biggest suppliers in China. Some investors feared that the tech giant's profits will be squeezed.
The Dow finished the quarter up 8.1%, with the S&P 500 up 12% and the Nasdaq up 18.7%.
The percentage gains for the Dow and S&P 500 were their best for a first quarter since 1998, while the Nasdaq's gain was its best for a first quarter since 1991, when it gained 29%. The point gains for the Dow and S&P 500 during the quarter, The Wall Street Journal Reported, were records.
For the month, the Dow was up 2%, with the S&P up 3.2% and the Nasdaq up 4.4%. For the week, the Dow added 1%, while the S&P 500 and Nasdaq were up 0.8%.
|Markets for the week|
|3/30/2012||3/23/2012||% chg.||YTD chg.|
|U.S. Dollar Index||79.14||79.58||-0.55%||-1.72%|
Groupon share plunge after earnings revision
After the close, Groupon (GRPN) shares were off 6.6% to $17.16 from regular close of $18.38. The company said it is revising financial results it reported in its first quarter as a public company, after discovering executives failed to set aside enough money for customer refunds.
The popular online-coupon company's auditor, Ernst & Young, called the error a "material weakness in its internal controls" for 2011. Groupon shares, which have been trading below their $20 initial public offering price, sank 6% to $17.20 in after-hours trading.
The surprise announcement raised questions about the reliability of Groupon's numbers, which would threaten investor confidence. It had reported a loss of $37 million for its fourth quarter. The accounting changes will reduce the company's revenue for the quarter by $14.3 million and widen its loss by $22.6 million, or 4 cents a share.
Europe also helps stocks and commodities
The U.S. rally took its cue from Europe, where stocks rallied strongly after eurozone finance ministers set the overall ceiling for the rescue of the region’s indebted nations at $1.1 trillion. Investors also were cheered by Spain's proposed budget that cuts spending and raises taxes to try to bring its deficit under control.
The European rally helped push the dollar lower against major currencies, and the 10-year-Treasury yield moved up slightly to 2.216% from Thursday's 2.159%. The yield is up 12.1% for the month and 18.4% for the quarter.
Not only was crude oil higher in New York, but Brent crude, the benchmark North Sea oil, was up 54 cents to $122.93 a barrel.
Gold (-GC) for June delivery settled up $17 to $1,671.90 an ounce. Silver (-SI) had added 49.2 cents to $32.484 an ounce. Copper (-HG) settled up 2.85 cents to $3.825 a pound.
Decent economic data
U.S. consumers increased spending in February even as incomes rose modestly, according to a Commerce Department report.
Meanwhile, a March reading on the Reuters/University of Michigan consumer-sentiment index came in better than expected, at 76.2. Analysts had expected a reading of 74.5.
And a reading on March manufacturing activity in the Chicago area came in slightly lower than expected. The Chicago Business Barometer edged lower to 62.2 this month versus forecasts for a reading at 63.
|Energy prices -- New York close|
|Fri.||Thur.||Month chg.||YTD chg.|
|Crude oil (-CL)||$103.02||$102.78||-3.78%||4.24%|
|Heating oil (-HO)||$3.1701||$3.1698||-1.12%||8.78%|
|Natural gas (-NG)||$2.1260||$2.1490||-18.73%||-28.87%|
|(per mil. BTU)|
|Unleaded gasoline (-RB)||$3.3081||$3.3397||1.56%||24.49%|
|(per gallon; AAA)|
Tighter grains supplies may mean higher food prices
Corn prices surged the most in 21 months, and wheat and soybean jumped after forecasts by the U.S. Agriculture Department signaled tighter crop supplies, renewing concerns that food inflation will quicken.
Corn (-ZC) inventories on March 1 in the U.S. fell more than analysts forecast to the lowest for this time of year since 2004, the USDA said today. Wheat (-ZW) reserves dropped to a three-year low, and planting intentions trailed estimates. Farmers will sow 73.902 million acres with soybeans this year, down 1.4% from 2011, USDA said.
Corn settled today at $6.44 a bushel, up 40 cents or 6.6%. Wheat was up 48.25 cents, or 7.9%, to $6.61. For the week, corn still finished down 0.4%. Wheat was up 1%. For the year, corn is off 0.4%, with wheat up 1.2%.
Global food prices rose to an all-time high last year, triggering unrest in northern Africa and the Middle East. The United Nations said this month that grain imports by the world’s poorest countries will climb to a record in the 12 months ending June 30. The U.S. is the world’s biggest producer of corn, soybeans and wheat.
A big credit-card breach
Trading in credit-card processor Global Payments (GPN) was halted on reports that the company could be the culprit in a massive security breach of credit card data.
Global Payments was down $4.73 to $47.50 when trading was halted.
The Wall Street Journal reported that some some 50,000 cardholders may be at risk. Visa (V) and MasterCard (MA) have been sending warnings to banks that may be affected. Visa maintained, however, that its own systems were not breached.
The report has hit shares of rivals such as Heartland Payment Systems (HPY), which was down $1.14 to $28.84. Also lower: MoneyGram International (MGI), down 28 cents to $18; and Fleetcor Technologies (FLT), down 76 cents to $38.77. Newtek Business Services (NEWT) was unchanged at $1.52.
Disney leads the Dow; Research In Motion shows some strength
Twenty-eight of the 30 Dow stocks were higher, led by Walt Disney (DIS), up 77 cents to $43.78 on an upgrade, and Hewlett-Packard (HPQ), up 32 cents to $23.83. Intel (INTC) and Alcoa (AA) were the laggards, down 5 cents to $28.12 and a penny to $10.02, respectively.
Independent oil-and-gas producer Pioneer Natural Resources (PXD) and Family Dollar Stores (FDO) were the S&P 500 leaders, up $6.39 to $111.59 and $3.19 to $63.28, respectively.
Research In Motion (RIMM), which reported disappointing results late Thursday, was the Nasdaq-100 leader, up 97 cents to $14.70. The company announced a housecleaning of executives and conceded the next few quarters would be "challenging." CEO Thorsten Heins said he would consider selling the company t also said it is considering strategic options, which is code for saying it wouldn't mind being bought out.
Leaders and laggards
Finish Line (FINL) dropped $4.12 to $21.22.The athletic apparel retailer projected 2013 earnings per share growth in the "mid-single digits,” falling short of the average analyst estimate of 13%.
Cabot Oil & Gas (COG) climbed 92 cents to $31.17. The 4.8% drop in the company’s shares on Thusday after a flash fire at the Williams Partners LP-operated Lathrop compressor station in Pennsylvania was "overblown," JPMorgan Chase analysts said in a note.
Jones Group (JNY) rallied 95 cents to $12.56. The maker of Nine West shoes was raised to buy from neutral at SunTrust Robinson Humphrey.
Wyndham Worldwide (WYN) rose $1.39 to $46.51. It had reached as high as $46.99. The franchiser of Days Inn hotels and Super 8 motels was raised to "buy" from "neutral" at Goldman Sachs.
|Short hits from the markets -- New York close|
|Fri.||Thur.||Month chg.||YTD chg.|
|13-week Treasury bill||0.0700%||0.060%||-12.50%||600.00%|
|5-year Treasury note||1.043%||1.014%||19.20%||25.66%|
|10-year Treasury note||2.216%||2.159%||12.09%||18.44%|
|30-year Treasury bond||3.345%||3.271%||8.39%||15.78%|
|U.S. Dollar Index||79.138||79.357||0.44%||-1.72%|
|(in U.S. $)|
|U.S. $ in pounds||£0.625||£0.627||-0.41%||-2.89%|
|Euro in dollars||$1.33||$1.33||0.00%||2.96%|
|(in U.S. $)|
|U.S. $ in euros||€ 0.750||€ 0.752||0.00%||-2.88%|
|U.S. $ in yen||82.79||82.40||1.75%||7.38%|
|U.S. $ in Chinese||6.30||6.30||-0.33%||-0.44%|
|(in U.S. $)|
|(in Canadian $)|
|(per troy ounce)|
|(per troy ounce)|
|Crude oil (-CL)||$103.02||$102.78||-3.78%||4.24%|
Dow, S&P 500 poised for best 1st quarter since 1998
Interesting week, it started out 3 days going down. It appears this was not in the plan, in view of Bernanke trying to salvage the quarter last week with his QE 3 hints. So this week I see the old Europe rope-a-dope was brought back to salvage the quarter.
I wonder if we'll get another surprise like last year, the 1st quarter GDP was over stated by about 60%.
Have nice quarter?
Like Obama or not, when Democrats are in office, the market / gdp grow; when Republicans are in office, it is just the opposite. If you don't believe it, go check it out.
Marc, What is your problem? What do you do? Work 90 hours a week? How do you have time to be here?
Wasn't sure whether or not this was your point from ealier today, but IF you were implying that oil companies bear an unreasonable tax burden and that would not be made any easier under the end of tax subsidies, then that needs to be addressed by lowering the corporate tax rate across the board, which is good idea.
The issue of keeping oil subsidies is a mystery, since even most of the GOP have been pretty outspoken about ending "corporate welfare". So I'm not a bash Big Oil nut in particular.
Hope you didn't consider my comments as constituting senior abuse. That's Rep. Ryan's Medicare reform plan...
Hows that banning going loser?
You don't have any juice boy, your just a raggedy azzed street -----
"marrying a wealthy" lady " You're STILL a parasite , exactly what I said. Further proved my point.
Stupid is forever!
classic lady ..
What I am advocating is that that money which is collected, is spent wisely and not on frivolous abominations ..
OUTSTANDING .. you may get a moderate non-partisan award for journalism
CLASSIC LADY .. how about the interstate highway system to move goods to your town, FAA in case you want to fly, CDC in case there is a mass epidemic, the US Military to protect us from foreign enemies, .. and the list goes on .. of federal government working to keep America safe and prosperous.
Paul Ryan's budget in a nutshell:
So let's compare it to Obamas... Ohhhh that's right...
Just returned from Central America, went to a an industrial site, to check out an option.
Dec of 2008, it was a large plot of grass and trees..
Today, it has 14 former US companies there, and 2 more due in May..
6% to 7% of all of the businesses, that can travel have options on sites outside the USA and will be leaving if Obama is reelected.
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[BRIEFING.COM] The S&P 500 ended this week with a bang, roaring to a new all-time high on the back of stronger-than-expected economic data, influential leadership, and an ongoing appreciation for the Fed's monetary policy support.
The bullish bias was evident in premarket action as the S&P futures pointed to a higher start without the benefit of any definitive news catalyst. Stocks indeed benefited from a blast of buying interest at the opening bell on this ... More
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