STOCKS SLIDE, OIL ENTERS BEAR MARKET: Here's what you need to know

Stocks closed lower for a third straight day, in a week that’s seen mixed earnings results from Wall Street. After reaching their highs of the day in late-morning trading, the major indices continued to slide into the market close. Crude oil fell into a bear market.

First, the scoreboard:

  • Dow: 17,729.11, -121.93, (-0.68%)
  • S&P 500: 2,101.32, -12.83, (-0.61%)
  • Nasdaq: 5,145.28, -26.49, (-0.51%)

And now, the top stories on Thursday:

  1. Initial jobless claims sank to the lowest level since November 24, 1973. Claims for unemployment insurance fell by 26,000 to 255,000. Richard Nixon was president the last time claims were this low. The four-week average, which smooths out volatility, fell 4,000 to 278,500.
  2. The jobless claims data coincides with the survey week for the July employment report, and economists expect August jobs day to be huge. “Nonfarm payrolls increased a sturdy 254k in May, and the latest claims figures suggest that July nonfarm payrolls, released on August 7, will rise 235k [from 223k in June],” wrote Deutsche Bank’s Joe LaVorgna in a note to clients. “The decline in jobless claims tells us that the unemployment rate, currently 5.3%, will continue to move lower.”
  3. Crude oil has plunged into a bear market. West Texas Intermediate crude oil futures fell more than 1% to settle near $US48.55 per barrel in New York. Compared to recent highs, oil is now down 20% — the rough definition of a bear market. Oil inventory data this week showed that stockpiles continue to build.
  4. Commodities are getting crushed across the board. Copper fell to a six-year low, and Goldman Sachs analysts forecast continued weakness as Chinese demand falters. Iron-ore prices recently tanked, and gold is far from rebounding after Sunday’s flash crash.
  5. According to Caterpillar, “the global economy remains relatively stagnant.” In its second-quarter earnings results released this morning, the manufacturer of construction and manufacturing equipment noted that other than a “modestly positive” outlook for the US, many parts of the world including China, the Eurozone, and Brazil are not holding up well. The company is considered a bellwether of economic activity because of the enormous projects their products are used in.
  6. Nikkei is buying the Financial Times for £844 million ($US1.3 billion.) Pearson, the FT’s owners, confirmed this in a statement on Thursday after German publisher Axel Springer refuted reports that it was the buyer. “We’ve reached an inflection point in media, driven by the explosive growth of mobile and social,” Pearson said. “In this new environment, the best way to ensure the FT’s journalistic and commercial success is for it to be part of a global, digital news company.” Nikkei is a Japanese financial newspaper.
  7. McDonald’s final release of its same-store sales numbers was ugly. With quarterly results, the fast food chain said global sales at stores open for more than one year (or comparable sales) fell 0.7%, “reflecting negative guest traffic in all major segments.

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