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OIL SPIKES: Here's what you need to know

Stocks extended Wednesday’s comeback after the sharp sell-off, and rallied through much of the trading day to close well in the green. At its strongest point during today’s session, the Dow was up about 260 points.

Crude oil staged a bigger comeback, as West Texas Intermediate surged 6% and briefly above $30 per barrel.

First, the scoreboard:

  • Dow: 15,905.49, +138.75, (0.88%)
  • S&P 500: 1,871.66, +12.33, (0.66%)
  • Nasdaq: 4,482.58, +10.90, (0.24%)
  • WTI crude oil: $29.53, +1.18 ($29.53)

And now, Thursday’s top stories:

  1. “No limits”. That’s how European Central Bank president Mario Draghi will handle downside risks to growth and inflation. The bank left its deposit rate unchanged at -0.3%, as expected. Draghi’s suggestion at today’s press conference that there may be another rate cut coming as soon as the March sent the euro tumbling against the dollar by the biggest amount in at least two weeks. Draghi said he expects inflation to start rising in the second half of this year, and that downside risks to the region’s growth have increased.
  2. One of these risks would be crude oil, which was a hot topic Thursday at the World Economic Forum. The chairman of Saudi Arabia’s state oil company, Khalid al-Falih, said in Davos that it is “inevitable” that oil prices will start recovering this year, and oil at $30 per barrel is “irrational”, according to an FT report. Meanwhile, he reiterated that the country will not cut back production, which could be one way of guaranteeing a relief in oil prices. Bloomberg reported that fellow OPEC member Venezuela has already requested an emergency meeting to discuss production levels, and Nigeria is also itching for a roundtable.
  3. And thanks in part to crude oil, Russia’s ruble fell to a record low for a second straight day. The currency dropped nearly 5% to about 84.4 per dollar. It’s been the worst-performing emerging-market currency of late. In a note, Capital Economics suggested that this could mean a cut in interest rates within a month or so.
  4. We got some US economic data. They all missed. Initial jobless claims jumped by 10,000 to 293,000 last week, the highest level since last July, and more than the consensus of economists was expecting. Pantheon Macroeconomics’ Ian Shepherdson noted to clients that the spike related to mass layoffs from temporary holiday jobs. And he thinks we could have this seasonal glitch for some time. Meanwhile, BNP Paribas’ Derek Lindsey wrote that this means we could see a “normalization” from the high levels of monthly nonfarm-payroll gains. By the way, the Bureau of Labour Statistics also conducted its establishment survey for the January jobs report last week.
  5. The other data point was the Philly Fed’s manufacturing index, which was -3.5 for January (-5.9 expected). It was the weakest level since November 2012. Unsurprisingly, business owners were worried about manufacturing in the first half of 2016.
  6. Uber is getting into the food-delivery business, and investors and analysts alike think its bearish for GrubHub. Shares of Grubhub fell 8.6% to a record low following news that the hitherto ride-hailing service is launching a standalone competitor called UberEats. The UberEats app will be live by the end of March, and will first rollout in 10 US cities including New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Analysts at Cowen cut their price target on Grubhub shares to $20 from $22, noting Uber’s army of 400,000 drivers and 16 million US users.

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