Stocks closed lower after data on inflation and consumer sentiment fell short of expectations.
First, the scoreboard:
- Dow: 17,749.82 -145.40 (-0.81%
- S&P: 2,053.39 -12.56 (-0.61%)
- Nasdaq: 4,871.76 -21.53 (-0.44%)
And now, the top stories on Friday:
- In economic data, the University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment index fell to a four-month low of 91.2 in March from 95.4 in February, versus consensus of 96. And the producer price index fell 0.5% in February; economists were expecting a 0.3% increase. Excluding food and energy, core prices went nowhere; economists had forecast a 0.1% gain. “More meaningful, though, was a 1.6% plunge in food prices, which could also be a drag on headline CPI in coming months,” Morgan Stanley’s Ted Wieseman wrote in a note.
- West Texas Intermediate crude oil tanked more than 4% to as low as $US45.13 per barrel. US crude oil production is still strong, and that may drive prices even lower. In a report, the International Energy Agency said: “Behind the facade of stability, the rebalancing triggered by the price collapse has yet to run its course.”
- The latest data from Baker Hughes showed that the number of active oil rigs in the US dropped by 56 to 866 last week, the 14th straight period of declines.
- Consol Energy cut its capital expenditure forecast for 2015 to $US920 million from the $US1.0 billion it announced January 30. “The revised budget reflects a continued focus to high-grade the development plan to further reduce capital in a lower commodity price environment, while maintaining the E&P production growth target of 30% in 2015,” the company’s statement said.
- Lumber Liquidators shares got slammed after rallying as much as 10% during the week. Shares fell by up to 16% to around $US30 in afternoon trading. Goldman downgraded the company from “Buy” to “Neutral,” saying its sales could decline even more, after a “60 Minutes” report found that its laminate flooring contains levels of formaldehyde that violate industry standards and could pose health risks. In an afternoon interview with CNBC, founder Tom Sullivan said he was “dying” to buy the stock after the report, and may consider taking legal action against “60 Minutes” and Whitney Tilson, the hedge fund manager who’s short the stock and who tipped off the show.
- Herbalife shares surged by as much as 13% after activist investor Bill Ackman responded to a report that the FBI is investigating whether himself or his contractors manipulated the company’s stock. Ackman is short the stock and believes the company is a pyramid scheme. He told CNBC he has not been contacted by the FBI.
- The US dollar continued its surge while the euro tanked to a fresh 12-year low. The euro sank below $US1.05 to as low as $US1.0473.