US stocks closed little changed on the first trading day of the week, with the Nasdaq finishing lower but still above the 5,000 level and ever so near an all-time high.
First, the scoreboard:
- Dow: 18,117.2, -10.4, (-0.06%)
- S&P 500: 2,104.4, -3.7, (-0.2%)
- Nasdaq: 5,010.9, -15.4, (-0.3%)
And now, the top stories on Monday:
- Federal Reserve vice chair Stanley Fischer said that while it’s appropriate for the Fed to raise rates this year, it won’t follow a steady or predictable course afterwards. Fischer spoke at the Economic Club of New York at the end of a media blackout that preceded last week’s Fed meeting. “An increase in the target federal funds range likely will be warranted before the end of the year,” he said. “Liftoff should occur when the expected return from raising the interest rate outweighs the expected costs of doing so. In deciding when that time has come, we will continue to monitor a wide range of information regarding labour market conditions, inflation, and financial and international developments.”
- Oil prices are set to bounce back in the second half of this year, according to the CEO of Schlumberger, the world’s largest oilfield services provider. Reuters reported that what will trigger the spike, according to Paal Kibsgaard, is a 10-15% drop in the oil and gas industry’s international spending on exploration and production. North American oil will keep surging, but will fall in 2016 and open a gap for international producers to fill, he said. Meanwhile, Business Insider’s Shane Ferro reports that Goldman sees US oil production growing into 2016, though there will be a decline later this year.
- In economic data out on Monday, existing home sales rose 1.2% in February to an annualized pace of 4.88 million homes, missing forecasts. Economists had been expecting a 2% rise to an annualized pace of 4.92 million. Morgan Stanley’s Ted Wieseman noted that existing home sales are counted at closing, and so are less timely than new home sales, which are captured when contracts are signed; new home sales data will drop on Tuesday morning.
- Herbalife is crushing Bill Ackman. The company’s shares have rallied by more than 43% in March, stomping the hedge fund manager, who famously made a $US1 billion bet against the stock. In trading on Monday, shares rallied by more than 7% to as high as $US48.55 a piece. In a Bloomberg TV interview March 13, Ackman said his hedge fund “shorted the stock around $US47 or $US48,” with a breakeven price in the mid-30s when expenses are added.
- “It’s Been Wild-Fun, but We’d Like to Breathe a Little.” That’s the title of Stifel’s note downgrading high-flying biotech stock Biogen from “Buy” to “Hold.” Biogen shares surged by more than 9% on Friday after it announced results from a preliminary treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. Stifel said the stock price, which climbed as high as $US474 per share, has hit “a reasonable price target for the next 12 months.” Several analysts are calling a bubble in biotech stocks, as investors make big bets on treatments with huge potential, pumping up valuations.
- For Warren Buffett, the mother lode of opportunities runs through America and Berkshire Hathaway would not have had its incredible success in any other country. In a video address to the SelectUSA summit,aimed at attracting foreign investment, Buffett said the rule of law, equal opportunity, and freedom for innovation make the US more attractive.
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