Stocks turned negative in the final hour of trading, while energy stocks held on to their gains and oil prices rallied.
First, the scoreboard:
- Dow: 17,877, -3, (-0.02%)
- S&P 500: 2,076, -3.5, (-0.2%)
- Nasdaq: 4,912, 5, (-0.1%)
And now, the top stories on Tuesday:
- Crude oil had yet another huge day, turning the two international benchmarks positive year-to-date. West Texas Intermediate crude surged by more than 3% to as high as $US53.88 per barrel. Brent crude rallied to as high as $US59.29.
- Meanwhile, the Energy Information Administration said the lifting of sanctions on Iran could push down oil prices by between $US5 and $US15 per barrel in 2016. In a report, the EIA said Iran can increase production by at least 700,000 barrels per day by the end of 2016, and it has at least 30 million barrels in storage. The EIA sees WTI at around $US70 a barrel in 2016.
- Job openings hit a 14-year high in February. The latest Job Openings and Labour Turnover Survey, or JOLTS report, showed there were 5.13 million job openings, beating expectations for 5 million. There were 4.9 million hires, about the same as January and equal to about 3.5% of all employees. There were about 2.7 million quits in February as the quits rate stayed unchanged from the prior month at 1.9%. “Someone please tell the data-dependent 17 members of the Federal Open Market Committee: the labour market is stronger than you think,” Chris Rupkey at Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi wrote in an email.
- Minneapolis Fed president Narayana Kocherlakota said the Fed should wait till the second half of 2016 to raise rates — the most bearish call yet from a Fed president. He spoke before the Bismarck-Mandan Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday. He said, “I expect that it will take several years for employment to return to its maximal level. I expect that it will take several years for inflation to return to target.”
- Oppenheimer downgraded American Express to “Underperform” with a price target of $US68 on shares. The stock fell by over 1% to as low as $US78.26 in trading. The competition is putting pressure on key business segments, according to analysts at Oppenheimer who wrote: “American Express’ competition has gone from envying the company before the financial crisis to doing everything to copy its success post-crisis.”
- Warren Buffett bought some more paint. Berkshire Hathaway announced that it’s buying 20 million shares of Axalta Coating Systems from affiliates of Carlyle Group for $US560 million, or $US28 per share. Axalta shares jumped by more than 9% to around $US30.96. Axalta, which makes coatings for cars and pipelines, went public last November. Berkshire Hathaway also owns Benjamin Moore, which produces house paints.
- Twitter shares rallied by more than 3% to a new year-to-date high of around $US53.28 a share. There was no immediate news on the company, although some outlets reported on rumours of a takeover bid.
- FedEx shares rose nearly 4% after the announcement of its acquisition of Dutch rival TNT Express for 4.4 billion euros ($US4.8 billion). This will give FedEx a bigger push into international markets, CEO Frederick Smith said.