Stocks Rose Despite Lingering Pressure on Banks…..

U.S. stocks ended the day noticeably higher, reversing some recent losses, as the banking sector continues to remain in the headlines. First Republic climbed after reports that it could receive up to $30 billion in deposits from some of the nation’s largest banks in an attempt to stabilize the lending firm. In other equity news, Adobe topped quarterly expectations and offered upbeat guidance, while Dollar General offered mixed results. The economic calendar was busy today, as jobless claims declined more than anticipated, import prices dipped, housing construction activity rose much more than projected, and manufacturing output in Philadelphia remained solidly in contraction territory. Treasury yields were higher and the U.S. dollar dipped, while crude oil prices rose, and gold moved modestly to the downside. Asia finished mostly lower amid the global banking worries, and markets in Europe rebounded even as the European Central Bank followed through with a 50-basis point rate hike despite the financial market turbulence. Also, Credit Suisse rallied after getting some capital support from the Swiss National Bank.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 372 points (1.2%) to 32,247, the S&P 500 Index went up 68 points (1.8%) to 3,960, and the Nasdaq Composite increased 283 points (2.5%) to 11,717. In moderate volume, 5.6 billion shares of NYSE-listed stocks were traded, and 5.4 billion shares changed hands on the Nasdaq. WTI crude oil gained $0.74 to $68.35 per barrel. Elsewhere, the gold spot price went down $7.20 to $1,924.10 per ounce, and the Dollar Index lost 0.3% to 104.39.

Jobless claims decline, import prices dip, housing construction activity stronger than expected…..

Weekly initial jobless claims came in at a level of 192,000 for the week ended March 11, below the Bloomberg consensus estimate of 205,000 and the prior week’s upwardly revised 212,000 level. The four-week moving average dipped by 750 to 196,500, and continuing claims for the week ended March 4 decreased by 29,000 to 1,684,000, south of estimates calling for 1,723,000. The four-week moving average of continuing claims decreased by 1,750 to 1,676,500.

The Import Price Index dipped by 0.1% month-over-month (m/m) for February, versus estimates calling for a 0.2% decrease, and versus the downwardly revised 0.4% decline in January. Versus last year, prices were down by 1.1%, after the upwardly revised 0.9% gain in January, and matching estimates. Import prices excluding petroleum fell 0.4% m/m, compared to the forecasted 0.1% rise, and the prior month’s upwardly revised 0.3% gain.

Housing starts for February rose 9.8% m/m to an annual pace of 1,450,000 units, versus forecasts of a slight increase to a 1,310,000-unit pace from January’s upwardly revised 1,321,000-unit level. Building permits, one of the leading indicators tracked by the Conference Board as it is a gauge of future construction, jumped 13.8% m/m to an annual rate of 1,524,000, above expectations calling for an increase to 1,343,000 units, and compared to the unrevised 1,339,000-unit pace posted in January.

The Philly Fed Manufacturing Business Outlook Index improved but remained solidly in contraction territory (a reading below zero) for March. The index increased modestly to -23.2 from February’s -24.3 level, and versus estimates of an improvement to a reading of -15.0.

Treasury rates were mostly higher, as the yield on the 2-year note was up 21 basis points (bps) to 4.18%, while the yield on the 10-year note gained 8 bps to 3.57%, and the 30-year bond rate increased 2 bps to 3.71%.

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