May 19, 2024

Stocks & Bonds: Last Day of Strong Quarter, and Shares Close Mixed

The index of 30 large companies gained 742 points in that stretch. Measured against other first quarters, that is the largest point gain since 1998 and the second best on record.

The price of oil rose to a 30-month high. Slightly disappointing reports on unemployment claims and factory orders also weighed on the market.

Stocks rose in the first quarter despite uprisings in the Arab world, a jump in oil prices and the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis in Japan.

“This is a market that has been defined by resilience in the face of uncertainty,” said Andrew D. Goldberg, a market strategist at J. P. Morgan Funds.

On Thursday, the Dow Jones industrial average fell 30.88 points, or 0.25 percent, to 12,319.73. The Standard Poor’s 500-stock index fell 2.43 points, or 0.18 percent, to 1,325.83. The Nasdaq composite index rose 4.28 points, or 0.15 percent, to 2,781.07.

The S. P. 500 rose 5.4 percent during the first quarter and the Nasdaq gained 4.8 percent.

Shares of Berkshire Hathaway lost 2.1 percent after the company said that David Sokol, once a candidate to succeed Warren E. Buffett as the head of the conglomerate, resigned.

Stocks swung between small gains and losses on Thursday as the price of oil surged to settle at $106.72 a barrel. In Libya, troops loyal to Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi retook control of the crucial oil port of Ras Lanouf from rebel forces. The power shift threatens the quick restart of oil exports promised by a rebel victory.

Oil prices have risen $20 a barrel since the Libyan uprising began in February. Higher oil prices can pinch spending by forcing consumers to pay more for gasoline and could cut into economic growth.

Spot gold prices also rose $4.52 an ounce to $1,423.02.

There were also slightly disappointing reports on new unemployment claims and factory orders. The Labor Department said fewer people applied for unemployment benefits last week, signaling that companies may be slowing layoffs. The number of new claims declined 6,000, to 388,000. Analysts expected a larger decline.

The news comes a day before the Labor Department’s monthly employment report. The unemployment rate is expected to remain unchanged at 8.9 percent.

Banks in Ireland were also under pressure. The country’s central bank said Thursday that four of its banks needed another 24 billion euros in coming months to show that they will not collapse in the face of future crises. Ireland has already put 46 billion euros into the country’s banks since 2009. The four banks will need to draw on an emergency credit line from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.

Still, stocks in Europe broadly rose. The FTSE 100 in London closed up 16.13 point to 5,948.30 while the CAC-40 in Paris rose 36.64 points, to 4,024.44.

Interest rates were a little higher on Thursday. The Treasury’s benchmark 10-year note fell 7/32, to 101 11/32, and the yield rose to 3.46 percent from 3.43 percent late Wednesday.

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