Stocks rallied into the close after a shaky two days that saw all the gains of the year wiped away.
First, the scoreboard:
- Dow: 17,894.90 +259.51 (1.47%)
- S&P 500 2,065.92 +25.68 (1.26%)
- Nasdaq: 4,893.29 +43.35 (0.89%)
And now, the top stories on Thursday:
- In economic data, retail sales fell 0.6% in February, missing the expectation for 0.3% growth. Ian Shepherdson at Pantheon Macroeconomics wrote: “In one line, retailers suffer in bad winter weather. That’s all.” TD Securities’ Millan Mulraine agreed: “The broad-base weak tone of this report suggests that the bad winter weather may have been a key factor in tempering economic activity this quarter.”
- Last week, initial jobless claims fell to 289,000 from 325,000 the previous week, lower than the 305,000 forecast. “Amid all the talk of softer US data, the net move in jobless claims — one of the few real-time indicators of activity — has been trivially small,” Shepherdson wrote. And the US budget deficit fell to $US192.3 billion in February from $US193.5 billion in January. Economists had forecast a deficit of $US191.0 billion.
- Lumber Liquidators hosted a conference call today to address the concerns that were raised in the “60 Minutes” report earlier in March. Through tests, the reporters found that Lumber Liquidators’ laminate flooring sourced from China contained levels of formaldehyde that exceed California state regulations, and are potentially hazardous. The company said total net sales in the 9 days following the broadcast fell approximately 7.5%, compared to the same period in 2014, with comparable store net sales down approximately 12.7%. It added that sales would have to fall 27% before its liquidity falters. The company did not take questions afterwards, and offered to test customers’ flooring, paying up to $US4000 of the cost.
- Shake Shack shares rebounded after tanking almost 10%. Near the close, shares were up by nearly 3%. The company reported its first earnings results on Wednesday, which showed that it posted a net loss of $US0.01 per share, compared to the $US0.03 expected. Sales beat forecasts at $US34.8 million, up 51.5%, versus $US33 million expected. The fast casual restaurant chain aims to open at least 10 new shacks a year, CEO Randy Garutti said in the earnings statement.
- West Texas Intermediate crude oil fell to a six-week low, dropping as much as 2% to around $US47.07 a barrel. On Wednesday, the Energy Information Administration said US crude inventories increased again last week, keeping stockpiles at the highest level for this time of year in at least 80 years.
- Around midnight ET, the euro fell to a new 12-year low against the dollar, sliding below $US1.05. The currency has been under pressure all week as the European Central Bank begins its quantitative easing program to combat deflation. Wall Street has weighed in on how soon the euro will reach parity with the dollar, and Deutsche Bank’s call that it could happen by yearend is the most bearish.
- Intel shares fell as much as 4% lower after it dampened its guidance for the first quarter of 2015. Due to weaker demand for business desktop PCs, it now forecasts first-quarter revenue to be $US12.8 billion, plus or minus $US300 million, compared to the previous expectation of $US13.7 billion, plus or minus $US500 million.
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