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While you were sleeping: UPDATED Bank stocks lead Dow higher

Financial stocks on Wall Street rise for the fifth day.

Margreet Dietz
Fri, 15 Apr 2016

Financial stocks on Wall Street rose for the fifth day but the benchmark indexes ended largely unchanged.

JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs led the Dow’s advance, rising 1.3% and 0.7% respectively. At the close, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 18.15 points, or 0.1%,at 17,926.43 after going as high as 17,960 in intra-day trading.

Intel and Walt Disney fell 1.0% and 0.85% respectively.

The Nasdaq Composite Index moved less than 0.1% to finish at 4945.89, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index was also virtually unchanged at 2082.78.

Shares of Bank of America rose 3.2% higher in earlier trading after investors took heart from the company’s plans to further lower costs after the second-largest US bank by assets posted a decline in first-quarter profit.

“These stocks had so much bad news priced into them, any sign of progress is welcomed,” Shannon Stemm, an analyst at Edward Jones & Co in St. Louis, told Bloomberg. “There’s opportunity on the expense side.”

Shares of Wells Fargo also rose. The third-largest US bank by assets also reported a drop in first-quarter profit. 

"[C]hallenges in the energy industry and persistent low rates impacted our bottom line," Wells Fargo Chief Financial Officer John Shrewsberry said in a statement.

Price rises lowest in six months 
A Labor Deportment report showed the core consumer-price index, stripped for food and fuel, rose 0.1% in March, the smallest increase since August.

A separate report showed Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 13,000 to a seasonally adjusted 253,000 for the week ended April 9, the lowest since 1973.

The data helps add to doubts whether the Federal Reserve policy makers will indeed lift rates twice this year.

In a regular monthly survey by Reuters, two-thirds of economists polled – 54 of 81 – forecast a rate hike by end-June, with respondents providing a median 55% probability of that happening, down from 60% in March.

"It is certainly an uphill climb to get to a June rate hike," Sam Bullard, senior economist at Wells Fargo, told Reuters. "A lot of things do have to go right between now and then."

Meanwhile, shares of Agrium traded 5.3% lower in afternoon trading New York, following a 1.3% decline on Wednesday. Scotiabank downgraded shares of the largest agricultural retailer to US farmers amid weaker demand for fertiliser, according to Bloomberg. Stocks of other crop-nutrient producers also fell.

European, Asian markets rise
In Europe, the Stoxx 600 Index finished the session with a 0.3% gain from the previous close.

The UK’s FTSE 100 Index eked out a 0.03% advance, France’s CAC 40 Index added 0.5%, while Germany’s DAX Index rose 0.7%.

Nestlé shares rose, closing 2 percent higher in Zurich, after the world’s biggest food company reported first-quarter sales that exceeded expectations and confirmed its full-year outlook. 

“As anticipated, the first quarter continued the positive momentum in real internal growth, with softer pricing,” Paul Bulcke, Nestlé CEO, said in a statement.

In Asia, Japan’s Nikkei Stock Average rose 3.2%, helped by a slight weakening of the yen and indications the Bank of Japan would further push interest rates into negative territory.

Currencies across Asia dropped sharply against the dollar after Singapore unexpectedly eased its currency policy, while China’s central bank weakened the reference rate for the yuan against the dollar by 0.5%, the biggest one-day depreciation since early January.

In commodities, the price of US crude oil for May delivery lost 0.6% to $US41.50 a barrel, with oil prices fluctuating just days before a closely watched meeting of oil producers in Doha, Qatar, this weekend.

Gold for April delivery fell 1.7% to $US1225 an ounce.


Margreet Dietz
Fri, 15 Apr 2016
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While you were sleeping: UPDATED Bank stocks lead Dow higher