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  • Mixed finish for US stocks

    15-Mar-2019 | 10:05

    U.S. stocks closed mostly lower on Thursday as investors digested headlines suggesting progress toward a U.S.-China trade deal has stalled against the backdrop of weaker-than-expected Chinese economic data. The session featured several economic releases and a good bit of company-specific news, but the market seemed content to take a breather after the strong gains it registered to begin the week.

    The Dow Jones Industrial Average bucked the broader markets decline to rise 7.05 points to 25,709.94. The S&P 500 index slipped 2.44 points to 2,808.48, and the Nasdaq Composite Index shed 12.50 points, or 0.2%, to 7,630.91.

    On Thursday, the U.S. dollar was stronger versus most major rivals, with the ICE U.S. Dollar Index, a measure of the currency against six major rivals, up 0.2%. A stronger dollar can weigh on commodities priced in the unit because it makes them more expensive to users of other currencies.

    Data on Thursday showed first-time applications for unemployment benefits rose last week to a one-month high, though the level of layoffs in the U.S. remained extremely low.

    Separately, data showed the cost of imported goods rose 0.6% in February, though the rise was driven largely by a 5% rise in the cost of oil, natural gas and other energy costs. Excluding fuel, import prices were unchanged. Sales of new U.S. homes dropped almost 7% in January to a 607,000 annual rate.

    Among stocks under focus, Boeing shares fell 1% after U.S. regulators grounded 737 Max 8 and 9 aircraft in line with similar decisions in other countries.

    Facebook shares dropped 1.9% after the New York Times reported that a grand jury under the supervision of prosecutors from the Eastern District of New York is undertaking a criminal investigation into the social-media platforms data-sharing practices.

    Johnson & Johnson shares declined 1% after the company was ordered to pay $29 million to a woman dying of cancer. The court determined J&J was liable in the suit, which claimed the cancer — mesothelioma — was caused by the asbestos in the companys talcum powder.

    Bullion prices ended lower at Comex on Thursday, 14 March 2019. Gold futures pulled back below the $1,300-an-ounce level on Thursday, giving up their highest levels of the month, as the U.S. dollar regained its footing and investors appeared to shrug off political turmoil in the U.K. surrounding the countrys preparations for exiting from the European Union.

    Gold for April delivery on Comex fell $14.20, or 1.1%, to settle at $1,295.10 an ounce. May silver dropped 28.5 cents, or 1.8%, to $15.171 an ounce.

    Crude oil futures split ways on Thursday, with U.S. prices up a fourth straight session after recent data revealed a weekly decline in domestic supplies, but global prices ending lower in the wake of a reported delay in the U.S.-China trade discussions and a slowdown in OPEC output cuts.

    April West Texas Intermediate crude rose 35 cents, or 0.6%, to settle at $58.61 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, logging a fourth straight session climb. It settled at its highest since mid-November.

    U.S. Treasuries finished on a lower note, pushing yields higher across the curve. The 2-yr yield increased one basis point to 2.45%, and the 10-yr yield increased two basis points to 2.63%.

    Looking ahead, investors will receive the following economic reports on Friday: the Empire State Manufacturing Survey for March, Industrial Production and Capacity Utilization for February, the preliminary University of Michigan Index of Consumer Sentiment for March, the JOLTS - Job Openings report for January, and Net Long-Term TIC Flows for January.

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