Markets Higher, Closing News 3/15/12

Markets closed higher with the Dow logging its 7th straight advance as financials continued to lead the charge and lower than expected jobless claims added to the glee.

As investors are still digesting the results of the largest U.S. banks’ capital plans in response to the Federal Reserve’s stress test, which was revealed on Tuesday, confidence seems to be rising about the health of the industry and the enhanced ability the banks will have to lend money.

Jobless Claims were down 14,000 to 351k better than expectations of 357k, keeping figures mostly below 400,000 since November, an encouraging sign for the hiring landscape.

The Empire State's business conditions index increased for the fourth consecutive month to 20.21 from 19.53 in February.   The March index was the highest in well over a year.

The S&P 500 crossed the 1400 level for the first time since June 6, 2008.  Today was the first time in history that the S&P closed above 1,400, the Nasdaq closed above 3,000 and the Dow closed above 13,000.

Tomorrow is a Quadruple Witch day, which means market index futures, market index options, stock options and stock futures expire. This may cause increased volatility in these indexes and in the individual stocks that are impacted.  Today is also the day for the quarterly share rebalance for the S&P 500, S&P MidCap 400 and S&P SmallCap 600. Both events will take place at the close.

Market Indices/Statistics:

  • Dow closed up 58.66 pts/+0.44% to 13,252.76

  • S&P closed up 8.32 pts/+0.60% to 1,402.60

  • Nasdaq closed up 15.64 pts/+0.51% to 3,056.37

  • 21 of the 30 Dow stocks closed higher

  • 9 of the 10 S&P 500 sectors closed up

  • Financials was the most positive sector (+1.88%);  Utilities was the only negative sector (-0.09%)

  • The VIX was up 0.11 to 15.42

  • Oil is down $0.13 to $105.82

  • Nat Gas is down $0.020 to $2.396

  • Gold is up $15.90 to $1,658.80

  • Euro vs. Dollar is down $0.0049 to $1.3078

  • Dollar vs. Yen is down $0.20 to $83.48

Companies in the News:

Bank of America (BAC,+$0.40/+4.5% to $9.24) crossed and closed above the $9.00 level for the first time since August.  Many of the other big banks were higher as well thanks to the recent results of the Federal Reserve’s stress test. Citigroup (C, +$1.06/+3.0% to $36.27), Goldman Sachs (GS, +$2.69/+2.2% to $123.06), and JP Morgan Chase (+$1.27/+0.4% to 44.70) all closed higher.

Cisco Systems Inc. (CSCO, -$0.29/-1.4% to $19.91) were active today after the company announced its intention to acquire NDS Group Ltd., a video software provider and content security solutions provider for media companies and video entertainment service providers.  The acquisition is expected to complement and enhance the delivery of Cisco’s next-generation entertainment platform, VideoscapeTM and is valued at $5.0 billion.

Rumors of a U.S. and U.K. agreement to jointly release strategic oil stocks ran this morning.  Oil stocks dropped while airline stocks bounced on the rumor.  A U.S. official stated that the rumors were untrue, which helped the oil stocks recover while the airliners remained higher.  Exxon Mobil Corp (XOM, +$0.07/+0.1% to $86.09) managed to stay in the green while Marathon Oil Corp (MRO, -$0.02/-0.1% to $33.65), Hess Corporation (HES, -$0.28/-0.5% to $61.49) and Occidental Petroleum (OXY, -$0.02/-0.02% to $98.90) were unable to move out the red.  Southwest Airlines (LUV, +$0.27/+3.3% to $8.45), Delta (DAL, +$0.33/+3.6% to $9.63), and US Airways (LCC, +$0.49/+6.9% to $7.58) all closed higher. 

Railroad companies were also in the spotlight today after an analyst report stated that investors had over-estimated the impact of lower coal volumes on the companies.  Union Pacific Corp (UNP, +$5.37/+5.0% to $113.08), CSX Corp (CSX, +$1.71/+8.5% to $21.92), Norfolk Southern Corp (NSC, +$3.58/+5.5% to $68.53) and Canadian Pacific Railway (CP, +$1.71/+2.3% to $77.49) all ended the day higher.


Dole Food Co. Inc. (DOLE, +$0.11/+1.1% to $9.97) reported a Q4 EPS $0.05 on continuing operations vs. estimates of (-$0.12); revenue was $1.54 billion, 1.1% lower than the $1.56 billion reported in the year ago period.  Earnings were better than expected thanks to effective cost cutting measures the company employed.

Coming Friday:

Economic Reports:   Feb. Consumer Price Index (+0.4% expected) at 8:30 a.m.; Feb. Industrial Production (+0.4% expected), Feb. Capacity Utilization (78.8% expected) at 9:15 a.m.; March U. of Michigan Confidence (76.0 expected)

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