STOCKS GO NOWHERE, SQUARE GOES NUTS: Here's what you need to know

Stocks spent most of the session little changed, as shares of healthcare companies got slammed after the largest health insurer said it was considering ditching Obamacare.

First, the scoreboard:

  • Dow: 17,743.84, +6.68, (0.04%)
  • S&P 500: 2,082.46, -1.12, (-0.05%)
  • Nasdaq: 5,079.01, +3.80, (0.07%)

And now, Thursday’s top stories:

  1. Square had a stellar initial public offering. The mobile payments company’s shares jumped by as much as 60%, after opening at $US11.20, above the $US9 price tag that was set on Wednesday. The level at which its shares were indicated before the IPO was below the value at the most recent private fundraising round. That raised concerns about the company’s future, and broader concerns about tech-industry unicorns with valuations of over $US1 billion. Square now has a market cap of about $US4 billion.
  2. Caterpillar’s sales tanked yet again in October, and are now in a 35-month streak. The most pronounced slumps for the industrial giant were in Latin America (-41%), and in resources industry sales — or mining and oil equipment — which fell 37% in Asia. Caterpillar’s sales decline reflect, on a broader scale, the slowdown in China as it transitions from an industrial-based to a consumer-based economy.
  3. UnitedHealth shares fell 5% after the country’s largest health insurer said it may ditch offering its products through Obamacare, or the Affordable Care Act. Shares of Anthem and Aetna also fell, by more than 6%, and the healthcare sector was the worst performing sector on the S&P 500. UnitedHealth lowered its expectations for 2015 and 2016 earnings. It explained in a statement that it was evaluating how viable it is to continue to use Obamacare, and should decide early next year whether it will continue in 2017.
  4. In economic data, initial jobless claims fell to 271,000 last week, by less than expected. Economists had forecast that first-time unemployment insurance claims totaled 270,000, versus 276,000 in the prior period. The four-week moving average of claims rose 3,000 to 270,750, still near the lowest levels in over 40 years.
  5. The Philly Fed’s Business Outlook index rose to +1.9 in November from -4.5 in October, beating forecasts, and indicating that business conditions in the region improved. “Indexes for new orders, shipments, and average work hours, however, continued to suggest weakness,” the report noted.
  6. Best Buy shares fell by as much as 8% after the consumer electronics retailer reported a decline in sales. Revenues totaled $US8.82 billion, down 2% year-on-year, versus $US8.83 billion forecast. Comparable-store sales grew 0.8%, below the expectation for 1%, hurt by slowing sales of tablets, mobile phones, and cameras. International sales declined 30% to $US729 million, following the closure of nearly half of its Canadian Future Shop stores. Best Buy said ongoing softness in Canada’s economy, and a negative foreign-currency impact, also hurt international sales.

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