Weekly Wrap-Up 20 March 2015

March 20th, 2015
in contributors, syndication, forex

U.S. stocks higher at close of trade

by Staff,

U.S. stocks were higher after the close on Friday, as gains in theOil & Gas, Financials and Consumer Goods sectors led shares higher.

At the close in New York, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.94%, while theS&P 500 index added 0.90%, and the NASDAQ Composite index added 0.68%.

Follow up:

The best performers of the session on the Dow Jones Industrial Average were Nike Inc (NYSE:NKE), which rose 4.46% or 4.39 points to trade at 102.71 at the close. Meanwhile, Chevron Corporation (NYSE:CVX) added 2.30% or 2.41 points to end at 107.16 and Home Depot Inc (NYSE:HD) was up 2.27% or 2.61 points to 117.77 in late trade.

The worst performers of the session were UnitedHealth Group Incorporated (NYSE:UNH), which fell 1.16% or 1.40 points to trade at 119.36 at the close. Apple Inc (NASDAQ:AAPL) declined 0.73% or 0.93 points to end at 126.57 and EI du Pont de Nemours and Company (NYSE:DD) was up 0.11% or 0.08 points to 74.59.

The top performers on the S&P 500 were Biogen Idec Inc (NASDAQ:BIIB) which rose 9.66% to 475.52, Freeport-McMoran Copper & Gold Inc (NYSE:FCX) which was up 6.98% to settle at 18.46 and Transocean Ltd (NYSE:RIG) which gained 5.37% to close at 14.92.

The worst performers were Airgas Inc (NYSE:ARG) which was down 5.05% to 107.30 in late trade, Macerich Company (NYSE:MAC) which lost 4.44% to settle at 89.35 and Tiffany & Co (NYSE:TIF) which was down 3.90% to 83.00 at the close.

The top performers on the NASDAQ Composite were Prothena Corporation plc (NASDAQ:PRTA) which rose 32.26% to 38.66, FreeSeas Inc (NASDAQ:FREE) which was up 31.28% to settle at 0.070 and Acorn Energy Inc (NASDAQ:ACFN) which gained 26.08% to close at 0.45.

The worst performers were Metabolix Inc (NASDAQ:MBLX) which was down 18.74% to 0.65 in late trade, Sutor Technology Group Limited (NASDAQ:SUTR) which lost 14.54% to settle at 0.555 and Erickson Air-Crane Inc (NASDAQ:EAC) which was down 13.49% to 4.620 at the close.

Rising stocks outnumbered declining ones on the New York Stock Exchange by 2343 to 463 and 1 ended unchanged; on the Nasdaq Stock Exchange, 1693 rose and 1095 declined, while 2 ended unchanged.

Shares in Biogen Idec Inc (NASDAQ:BIIB) rose to all time highs; up 9.66% or 41.87 to 475.52. Shares in Tiffany & Co (NYSE:TIF) fell to 52-week lows; down 3.90% or 3.37 to 83.00. Shares in Nike Inc (NYSE:NKE) rose to all time highs; rising 4.46% or 4.39 to 102.71. Shares in Home Depot Inc (NYSE:HD) rose to all time highs; rising 2.27% or 2.61 to 117.77. Shares in Erickson Air-Crane Inc (NASDAQ:EAC) fell to all time lows; down 13.49% or 0.720 to 4.620.

The CBOE Volatility Index, which measures the implied volatility of S&P 500 options, was down 7.25% to 13.05 a new 3-month low.


The dollar pushed broadly lower against a basket of other major currencies on Friday, as risk sentiment improved amid fresh hopes for progress on the Greek debt front, while the Federal Reserve's latest policy statement continued to weigh on the greenback.

The dollar remained fragile after the Fed indicated on Wednesday that U.S. economic growth has moderated and that interest rates will rise at a slower pace than previously forecast.

The Fed dropped a reference to being "patient" on the timing of rate hikes, but added that the change in its forward guidance did not mean it has decided on the timing for an initial rate increase.

The U.S. dollar index, which measures the greenback's strength against a trade-weighted basket of six major currencies, was down 0.91% to 98.54.

The euro extended earlier gains, with EUR/USD up 1.06% to 1.0771.

The single currency found support after the European Commission said it made $2 billion of unused funds available to Greece to help the country avert a cash crunch.

The announcement came after Greek authorities said they were moving towards meeting the requirements of international creditors on a more detailed reform plan in order to secure the additional bailout funds required to prevent the country's bankruptcy.

European Union officials were set to continue discussions on the Greek bailout throughout the day.

The pound also gained ground, with GBP/USD advancing 0.83% to 1.4876.

The U.K. Office for National Statistics earlier reported that public sector net borrowing rose by £6.22 billion in February, less than the expected increase of £7.70 billion. January's figure was revised to a £8.93 billion drop from a previously estimated decline of £9.41 billion.

Elsewhere, the dollar turned lower against the yen and the Swiss franc, with USD/JPYeasing 0.09% to 120.70 and with USD/CHF tumbling 1.24% to 0.9778.

The minutes of the Bank of Japan's most recent policy meeting earlier showed that government dropped their calls to hit the bank's inflation target "at the earliest date possible," signaling to the BoJ that it shouldn't rush in accelerating inflation through expanding stimulus measures further.

Meanwhile, the Australian, New Zealand and Canadian dollars pushed broadly higher, with AUD/USD climbing 1.12% to 0.7736 and NZD/USD rallying 1.34% to 0.7514, whileUSD/CAD dropped 0.86% to 1.2607.

Statistics Canada said on Friday that retail sales dropped 1.7% in January, compared to expectations for a 0.7% fall, while core retail sales, which exclude automobiles, declined 1.8% in January, exceeding the expected 0.4% slip.

In a separate report, Statistics Canada said that consumer prices rose 0.9% last month, more than the expected 0.7% increase, while core consumer prices, which exclude the eight most volatile items, advanced 0.6% in February, compared to expectations for a 0.5% rise.

CTFC Commitment of Traders

Speculators turned more bearish on the euro, British pound and the S&P 500 this week. Sentiment remained bearish on most other currencies, the Swiss franc being an exception. Bullishness weakened for gold.



Gold futures surged on Friday afternoon to near a two-week high, as relatively dovish comments from Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen earlier in the week continued to weigh on a weakening dollar.

While the Fed removed its stance of remaining patient on its timing of a potential interest rate hike, Yellen appeared to strike a dovish tone with lower forecasts on inflation and GDP growth. The U.S. central bank also forecasted that interest rates will rise at a slower pace than had previously been expected.

Gold struggles to compete with high-yield assets in periods of raising interest rates.

On the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange, gold futures for April delivery rose 15.70 or 1.34% to 1,184.70 a troy ounce. It marked the third straight day that prices for futures increased by more than $15 an ounce.

Gold futures likely earned support at 1,148.20 the low from March 17 and resistance at 1,196.20 the high from March 5.

The euro on Friday continued to rebound against the dollar, as German chancellor Angela Merkel took a hard stance against Greece in negotiations regarding the euro zone's bailout package to Athens. Merkel set strict terms on the critical stimulus package Greece could receive from its euro zone creditors, reiterating that it will only be approved if the euro zone approves a list of economic reform measures Athens intends to propose shortly.

The euro rose nearly 2% against the dollar in U.S. afternoon trading to 1.0867. EUR/USDhas rallied strongly from its level on March 13, when it reached an 11-year low at 1.05.

Dollar-denominated commodities such as gold become more expensive for foreign buyers when the dollar appreciates.

In India, gold futures fell by Rs 60 to Rs 26,315 per 10 grams amid lower demand from jewelers and retailers. The modest decline came one day after gold soared by Rs 293 or 1.14% on the Multi Commodity Exchange. India is the world's largest purchaser of the precious metal.

Elsewhere, silver futures for May delivery soared 4.68% or 0.754 to 16.86.

Copper delivery for the month of May also rose 3.67% or 0.098 to 2.773.


Crude oil futures soared on Friday afternoon, amid a weaker U.S. dollar and the release of new standards for fracking on federal lands by the White House.

On the New York Mercantile Exchange, WTI crude oil for April delivery surged more than 5% or 2.21 to $46.17 a barrel, before settling at $45.87 at Friday's close. Future contracts for May delivery of Texas Light Sweet crude also increased 1.16 or 2.54% to 46.69.

Oil prices shot up as the dollar continued to weaken in the wake of relatively dovish comments from Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen earlier in the week. While the Fed removed its stance of remaining patient on its timing of a potential interest rate hike, Yellen appeared to strike a dovish tone with lower forecasts on inflation and GDP growth. The U.S. central bank also forecasted that interest rates will rise at a slower pace than had previously been expected.

Yellen's comments have sent the dollar spiraling from 11-year highs reached last week. The euro rose nearly 2% against the dollar in U.S. afternoon trading to 1.0867, while theU.S. Dollar Index fell 1.35% to 98.11. Speculative oil traders used the weakening dollar to hedge their positions in crude.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Interior Department on Friday approved the most comprehensive set of rules to date on how to govern drilling on Federal lands using hydraulic fracturing, a process where high-pressured fluid composed of water, chemicals and sand is injected into deep-rock formations creating cracks wide enough in the rocks to allow shale gas to flow more freely. The new regulations could impact approximately 100,000 oil and gas wells on Federally managed land throughout the country.

Among the new standards, the Interior Department will require firms to disclose the chemicals they use in the fracking process, improve standards for storing waste and construct stronger cement barriers to prevent oil leaks. In response two oil industry groups filed a lawsuit to challenge the regulatory changes,

As oil prices have headed on a downward trend in recent months, Saudi Arabia's oil minister last week blamed shale producers in the U.S. for the precipitous drop. On the Intercontinental Exchange (ICE), brent crude for May delivery rose 0.85 or 1.56% to $55.28 a barrel.

It came one day after Ali al-Omair, Kuwait's oil minister, indicated that current market conditions have forced Opec to maintain its production level. While al-Omair said Kuwait "will be very happy if other producers cut output," he added that the world's 10th largest oil producer can't afford to "lose its share in the market." Kuwait currently produces crude oil at a rate of approximately 3 million barrels per day.

Crude oil futures remained relatively unchanged after oil services firm Baker Hughes(NYSE:BHI) released its weekly rig count on Friday afternoon. U.S. oil rigs for the week ending Mar. 6 declined by 41 to 825. The report comes one day after the Energy Information Administration (EIA) said in a report that oil is being pumped in the U.S. at its fastest rate in nearly 30 years.

Natural Gas (Thursday Report)

Natural gas futures extended losses on Thursday, after data showed that U.S. natural gas supplies fell less than expected last week.

On the New York Mercantile Exchange, natural gas for delivery in April tumbled 11.7 cents, or 4.01%, to trade at $2.804 per million British thermal units during U.S. morning hours. Prices were at around $2.843 prior to the release of the supply data.

Futures were likely to find support at $2.680 per million British thermal units, the low from March 16, and resistance at $2.935, the high from March 18.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration said in its weekly report that natural gas storage in the U.S. in the week ended March 13 fell by 45 billion cubic feet, compared to expectations for a decline of 48 billion.

Supplies fell by 69 billion in the same week last year, while the five-year average change is a decline of 45 billion cubic feet.

Total U.S. natural gas storage stood at 1.467 trillion cubic feet. Stocks were 507 billion cubic feet higher than last year at this time and 225 billion cubic feet below the five-year average of 1.692 trillion cubic feet for this time of year.

On Wednesday, natural gas for delivery in April surged 6.5 cents, or 2.28%, to settle at $2.920 as a cold blast was expected to hit the U.S. Northeast later this week, boosting near-term demand expectations for the heating fuel.

However, any significant gains were likely to remain in check in the near-term as the coldest part of the winter has effectively passed and below-normal temperatures in March mean less than they do in January and February.

The heating season from November through March is the peak demand period for U.S. gas consumption. Approximately 49% of U.S. households use natural gas for heating, according to the Energy Department.

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