Stocks closed higher but relatively flat, and crude oil gave up a rally to sink back below $US50 per barrel on Friday.
First, the scoreboard:
- Dow: 17, 712.7, +34.4, (+0.2%)
- S&P 500: 2,061, +4.9, (+0.2%)
- Nasdaq: 4,891.2, +27.9, (+0.6%)
And now, the top stories on Friday:
- There was no revision to fourth quarter GDP which showed the economy grew 2.2% at the end of 2014. Economists had expected the Bureau of Economic Analysis to revise US growth upwards to 2.4%. The report also showed that personal consumption rose 4.4% in the quarter, in-line with expectations and up from 4.2% previously. Real GDP increased 2.4% in 2014, compared to an increase of 2.2% in 2013, the BEA said. Bricklin Dwyer at BNP Paribas wrote, “Today’s GDP report reiterates what the FOMC already knows: the economy was on solid footing at the end of the year, while inflation and inflation expectations continue to ratchet lower than expected.”
- US consumers are feeling good. The March consumer confidence reading from the University of Michigan beat forecasts, at 93.0. Expectations were for a 92.0 reading, up from a preliminary reading of 91.2 earlier this month.
- West Texas Intermediate crude oil got hammered, falling back below $US50 a barrel. Near the close, WTI was over 6% lower at around $US48.33 a barrel. It gave up a rally Thursday, triggered by Saudi Arabia’s attack on Iran-backed rebels in Yemen, which sparked concerns of oil traffic flows in the region. But as Citi analysts forecast Thursday, the spike faded because “the odds of disruption remain low; there is now indication that either side in the conflict has the means or the intention of disrupting these flows.”
- The oil rig count fell again this week, but at the slowest pace in nearly four months. Baker Hughes’ data showed the number of rigs fell by 12 to 813, the lowest since March 2011. Compared to this week last year, the number of combined oil and gas rigs is down from 1,809 and the number of oil rigs is down from 1,487.
- Oil and gas names now top Moody’s growing list of companies rated B3 negative and lower, according to a research report released Friday. Everything on that list has ‘junk’ status, according to the ratings agency. Via Moody’s: “Of the 28 companies that were added to the list, 43% were from the oil & gas sector, which has seen an uptick in ratings downgrades due to falling oil prices.”
- Credit Suisse says there’s no bubble in biotech stocks, but presented some very compelling reasons to suggest there actually is a bubble in a note Friday. On one hand, it’s simply a “new era” for “Biotech 2.0,” where “hopes and dreams” are now being combined with growth and profits. On the other, the sector is up 204% versus 64% for the S&P 500 since the beginning of 2011, and the number of biotechs with market caps greater than $US2 billion has nearly doubled in that time.
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