It was a wild day in the markets with the big news coming from Switzerland early in the morning after the Swiss National Bank announced that it would no longer peg the franc at 1.20 against the euro, sending currency, bond, and stock markets into chaos around the world.
First, the scoreboard:
- Dow: 17,324.3, -102.8, (-0.6%)
- S&P 500: 1,992.8, -18.5, (-0.9%)
- Nasdaq: 4,570.9, -68.2, (-1.5%)
And now, the top stories on Thursday:
1. A total stunner out of Switzerland. Early Thursday morning the Swiss National Bank announced that it would abandon its ceiling of pegging the franc at 1.20 against the euro, sending the franc surging and creating havoc in currency markets. The SNB also took its interest rate even further into negative territory, to -0.75% from -0.25%, and in a statement the bank said, “The euro has depreciated considerably against the US dollar and this, in turn, has caused the Swiss franc to weaken against the US dollar. In these circumstances, the SNB concluded that enforcing and maintaining the minimum exchange rate for the Swiss franc against the euro is no longer justified.”
2. Following the SNB’s actions, Christine Lagarde, head of the IMF, was on CNBC and told the network that the IMF was not aware that the SNB was going to take the action they did on Thursday. “I find it a bit surprising that he did not contact me, but, you know, we’ll check on that. By the way, the IMF used to be the referee of any currency variation. That has changed over time,” Lagarde told CNBC.
3. Crude oil had a wild day, rising more than 5% early in the day as West Texas Intermediate crude topped $US51 before coming back down to around $US47 in afternoon trade. Also in the commodity space, gold had a big day, rising more than 2% to around $US1,262 an ounce, as the precious metal continues its strong performance to begin the year.
4. Stocks in the US had another volatile day and lost ground for the fourth time this week and the fifth day in a row overall. In an afternoon email, Rich Barry at the NYSE wrote, “Today is further proof that ‘Volatility’ is the theme for 2015.”
5. In the US, we had a rash of economic data come out Thursday morning, with the weekly report on initial jobless claims showing that claims unexpectedly rose last week to 316,000, up from 294,000 last week. Ian Shepherdson at Pantheon Macro attributed the increase to seasonal adjustments, and said that next week might see an elevated claims number as well.
6. Energy costs continue to weigh on prices across businesses, as the producer price index showed that prices fell 0.3% in December, though this was slightly less than expected. “Core” prices, which exclude good and energy, rose 0.3% month-on-month in December and 2.1% compared to last year. On Friday morning we’ll also get a reading on inflation as the latest consumer price index report will be released at 8:30 am ET.
7. We also got manufacturing updates from the New York and Philadelphia Federal Reserve districts, with these reports running counter to one another as activity in the New York region ticked higher in January while Philadelphia saw the pace of growth slow markedly from the prior month.