U.S. stocks have come off their lows and are trading mostly higher in afternoon action, as investors parse a host of reports, headlined by earnings results from Union Pacific, a rebound in domestic retail sales, and a surprising decline in jobless claims ahead of tomorrow’s Good Friday holiday break. However, healthcare issues are seeing some pressure amid continued political uncertainty, while industrials are leading gainers. Treasury yields are lower despite the data, and the U.S. dollar is rising, while crude oil prices are mixed and gold has turned lower. Europe finished mixed following some lackluster Eurozone business activity data.
At 12:56 p.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 0.4%, the S&P 500 Index is gaining 0.2% and the NASDAQ Composite is nearly unchanged. WTI crude oil is decreasing $0.12 to $63.75 per barrel, though Brent crude oil is trading $0.05 higher at $71.67 per barrel and wholesale gasoline is up $0.02 at $2.06 per gallon. The Bloomberg gold spot price is down $0.48 to $1,273.50 per ounce, and the Dollar Index—a comparison of the U.S. dollar to six major world currencies—is rising 0.4% to 97.44.
Advance retail sales for March jumped 1.6% month-over-month (m/m), versus the Bloomberg forecast of a 1.0% gain, and February’s unrevised 0.2% increase. Last month’s sales ex-autos advanced 1.2% m/m, compared to expectations of a 0.7% gain and February’s upwardly-revised 0.2% decrease. Sales ex-autos and gas gained 0.9%, compared to estimates of a 0.4% gain, and February’s downwardly-revised 0.7% drop. The control group, a figure used to calculate GDP, increased 1.0%, versus projections of a 0.4% rise, and compared to February’s downwardly-revised 0.3% dip. Sales rose solidly across most categories, led by motor vehicles and parts, clothing, furniture and home furnishings, food and beverage, and online, while sales at sporting goods, hobby, musical instruments and book stores dipped.
Weekly initial jobless claims declined by 5,000 to 192,000, versus forecasts of a rise to 205,000, with the prior week’s figure being upwardly-revised by 1,000 to 197,000. The four-week moving average fell 6,000 to 201,250, while continuing claims dropped by 63,000 to 1,653,000, south of estimates of 1,722,000.
The Conference Board’s Index of Leading Economic Indicators (LEI) for March rose 0.4% m/m, matching projections and above February’s downwardly-revised 0.1% gain. None of the ten components of the index decreased, with jobless claims, stock prices, credit and consumer expectations the major positive contributors.
The preliminary Markit U.S. Manufacturing PMI Index showed growth held steady, remaining at March’s unrevised 52.4 figure for this month, versus estimates calling for a rise to 52.8. In addition, the preliminary Markit U.S. Services PMI Index showed growth slowed for the key U.S. sector this month, declining to 52.9 from March’s 55.3 figure, and versus expectations to dip to 55.0. Readings above 50 for both indexes denote expansion.
The Philly Fed Manufacturing Index in April fell more than expected but remained in expansion territory (a reading above zero), declining to 8.5 versus expectations to decrease to 11.0 from March’s 13.7 level.
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