May 19, 2024

Stocks Mixed on Lackluster Economic Data

Stocks wavered in a narrow range at the open before heading lower as data showing stubbornly high jobless claims, and lackluster chain-store sales provided little reason to get back into the market after a string of weak economic data.

Bank stocks stabilized after falling on news that Goldman Sachs received a subpoena from New York prosecutors seeking information on the investment bank’s role leading into the global financial crisis. Goldman’s stock fell 1.1 percent to $134.72.

In addition, Moody’s Investors Service said Thursday that it was reviewing the ratings of the Bank of America, Citigroup and Wells Fargo for possible downgrades. Moody’s said that the assumption that the banks were too big to fail might no longer be true as the result of the Dodd-Frank Act.

Stock in the three banks was slightly higher, despite the warning.

At the close the Dow Jones industrial average was down 41.59 points, or 0.34 percent, at 12,248.55. The Standard Poor’s 500-stock index was down 1.61 points, or 0.12 percent, and the Nasdaq composite index was up 4.12 points, or 0.15 percent, at 2,773.31 percent.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits slipped 6,000 to a seasonally adjusted 422,000, while economists polled by Reuters forecast 415,000.

Investors were reluctant to make big bets ahead of the nonfarm payrolls data due on Friday, which was expected to show 150,000 jobs were added in May, according to a Thomson Reuters survey of economists.

Strength in education stocks sent the Nasdaq higher after officials in the United States softened new rules that could have cut off tuition aid to programs run by profit-making colleges.

Corinthian Colleges surged 29.6 percent to $5.18, and the Apollo Group rose 10 percent to $46.35.

Retail sales were higher last month, led by discount stores, but the increase was not as high as that in April and fell short of analysts’ forecasts as consumers continued to face an uncertain economy.

Sales at discount stores that have been open at least a year grew by 7.8 percent in May, the best showing by any group of retailers in terms of sales last month, according to a survey of 24 retailers released on Thursday.

But the overall measure of what are known as same-store sales, compiled by Thomson Reuters, rose 4.9 percent on average in May, slightly below the 5.4 percent that analysts had forecast. It was also below the 8.9 percent growth in April, which was one of the biggest increases in the index in the last few years.

Some of the bigger retailers fell. Target edged down 0.9 percent to $48.10, and Gap fell 3.2 percent to $18.30.

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Stocks Higher Amid Caution as the Quarter Winds Down

The Standard Poor’s 500-share index has risen 4.5 percent in the first quarter and is on track for its seventh positive quarter in the last eight.

Technology and retail stocks were among the better-performing sectors Tuesday. The SP Information Technology Index had lost as much as 4 percent in the aftermath of the disaster in Japan, while the S.P. Retail Index dropped as much as 2.1 percent.

The S.P. Information Technology Index was up 0.5 percent on Tuesday and the S.P. Retail Index was up 1.1 percent.

“A lot of stocks got taken down sharply as a result of what was going on in Japan, and very unfairly, particularly in the technology space — and you are seeing technology and retail kind of lead the charge higher,” said Peter Kenny, managing director at Knight Equity Markets in Jersey City.

Home Depot was among the Dow’s best performers after saying late Monday that it would buy back $1 billion of outstanding shares through an accelerated program. Its stock rose 2.2 percent to $37.47 and was among the Dow’s top percentage gainers.

In 1 p.m. trading, the Dow Jones industrial average was up 64.22 points, or 0.5 percent. The Standard Poor’s 500-stock index was up 4.88 points, or 0.4 percent. The Nasdaq composite index was up 17.63 points, or 0.7 percent.

The Nasdaq was helped by strength in large-cap tech shares. rose 2.6 percent to $173.66 after it introduced a service offering remote access to music.

Cisco Systems rose 1 percent to $17.30 after it said it plans to buy newScale Inc. for an undisclosed amount to expand its cloud computing services.

On the downside, the Apollo Group, an education company, fell 6.9 percent to $39.42 after t said new enrollment fell 45 percent in second quarter.

Lennar fell 3.9 percent to $18.99 after swinging to a first-quarter profit but reporting a drop in revenue.

Wal-Mart Stores was urging the Supreme Court in oral arguments on Tuesday to reject a case brought on behalf of female employees who allege the retailer gave women less pay and fewer promotions in the largest, class-action sex-discrimination lawsuit ever. Wal-Mart, a Dow component, was up 0.1 percent to $52.25.

On the economic front, single-family home prices fell for the sixth straight month in January, according to the Standard Poor’s Case-Shiller composite index of 20 metropolitan areas. However, the drop was not as much as expected.

After the market opened, data showed consumer confidence fell in March as expectations about jobs and income growth worsened, according to the Conference Board, a private research group.

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