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posted on 25 March 2016

Investing.com Weekly Wrap-Up 25 March 2016

Written by , Investing.com

U.S. stocks mixed at close of trade; Dow Jones Industrial Average up 0.08%

U.S. stocks were mixed after the close on Thursday, as gains in theTelecoms, Oil & Gas and Utilities sectors led shares higher while losses in the Financials, Consumer Goods and Healthcare sectors led shares lower for the holiday shortened week..

At the close in NYSE, the Dow Jones Industrial Average added 0.08%, while the S&P 500index declined 0.04%, and the NASDAQ Composite index added 0.10%.

The best performers of the session on the Dow Jones Industrial Average were CaterpillarInc (NYSE:CAT), which rose 2.19% or 1.61 points to trade at 75.29 at the close. Meanwhile, International Business Machines (NYSE:IBM) added 1.75% or 2.55 points to end at 147.95 and Chevron Corporation (NYSE:CVX) was up 1.35% or 1.26 points to 94.85 in late trade.

The worst performers of the session were Nike Inc (NYSE:NKE), which fell 1.27% or 0.79 points to trade at 61.65 at the close. UnitedHealth Group Incorporated (NYSE:UNH) declined 0.92% or 1.20 points to end at 128.59 and JPMorgan Chase & Co (NYSE:JPM) was down 0.77% or 0.46 points to 59.48.

The top performers on the S&P 500 were PVH Corp (NYSE:PVH) which rose 7.60% to 94.29, Staples Inc (NASDAQ:SPLS) which was up 7.01% to settle at 10.76 and Accenture plc (NYSE:ACN) which gained 6.26% to close at 114.30.

The worst performers were Williams Companies Inc (NYSE:WMB) which was down 5.60% to 15.35 in late trade, Seagate Technology PLC (NASDAQ:STX) which lost 4.51% to settle at 33.23 and PayPal Holdings Inc (NASDAQ:PYPL) which was down 3.95% to 38.92 at the close.

The top performers on the NASDAQ Composite were Lombard Medical Inc (NASDAQ:EVAR) which rose 35.37% to 1.1100, Alexza Pharmaceuticals Inc (NASDAQ:ALXA) which was up 31.96% to settle at 0.7390 and Code Rebel Corp(NASDAQ:CDRB) which gained 24.71% to close at 3.28.

The worst performers were DS Healthcare Group Inc (NASDAQ:DSKX) which was down 35.34% to 0.860 in late trade, Great Basin Scientific Inc (NASDAQ:GBSN) which lost 30.00% to settle at 0.1960 and Portola Pharmaceuticals Inc (NASDAQ:PTLA) which was down 29.28% to 20.24 at the close.

Rising stocks outnumbered declining ones on the New York Stock Exchange by 1665 to 1654 and 35 ended unchanged; on the Nasdaq Stock Exchange, 1438 rose and 1114 declined, while 74 ended unchanged.

Shares in Accenture plc (NYSE:ACN) rose to all time highs; rising 6.26% or 6.73 to 114.30. Shares in Portola Pharmaceuticals Inc (NASDAQ:PTLA) fell to 52-week lows; down 29.28% or 8.38 to 20.24.

The CBOE Volatility Index, which measures the implied volatility of S&P 500 options, was down 1.14% to 14.77.

The US Dollar Index was up 0.09% at 96.15.

Additional stock news from Reuters at Investing.com with more details on U.S. markets.

Forex

EUR/USD fell mildly on Thursday to close lower for a fifth consecutive session, amid soft durable goods orders in the U.S. and further indications that the Federal Reserve could increase the pace of its first tightening cycle in nearly a decade.

The currency pair traded in a tight range between 1.1146 and 1.1187, before closing at 1.1175, down 0.04% on the session. Since surging to five-month highs last week, the euro has fallen more than 1.25% against the dollar. At session-lows, the euro dropped to its lowest level since the Fed rattled currency markets worldwide last week by unexpectedly reducing its interest rate forecast for the next three years. More broadly, the euro is down by roughly 1% over the last six weeks.

EUR/USD likely gained support at 1.0538, the low from December 3 and was met with resistance at 1.1496, the high from Oct. 15.

A host of key policymakers from the Fed have struck a considerably more hawkish tone this week, days after the FOMC expressed concern that it may need to slow its outlook for future tightening against a backdrop of slowing global economic conditions. Earlier on Thursday, Federal Reserve of St. Louis president James Bullard hinted that the U.S. central bank's next rate hike could be looming if the U.S. economy demonstrates continued improvement over the next few weeks. While delivering a speech in New York, Bullard noted that the Fed could raise rates when it meets again in late-April and its next rate hike "may not be far off" if inflation continues to increase and unemployment declines from December levels.

Bullard's comments come in the wake of a wave of hawkish statements by his colleagues at the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) earlier this week. On Wednesday, Philadelphia Fed president Patrick Harker also recommended that the FOMC raise rates as early as April, while suggesting as many as three rate hikes by the end of the year. Harker's statements followed comparable hawkish positions from San Francisco Fed president John Williams and Atlanta Fed president Dennis Lockhart at the start of the week.

They also contradict comments from Janet Yellen at a press conference last week when the Fed chair noted that the central bank should remain cautious with future rate hikes, amid heightened risks in global financial markets. At the meeting, the Fed held its benchmark Federal Funds Rate at its current targeted range between 0.25 and 0.50%. The rate continues to linger around 0.37%.

Elsewhere, the U.S. Census Bureau said new durable goods orders fell 2.8% last month, one month after surging nearly 5% in January. In addition, new orders excluding transportation, which includes volatile aircraft orders, also dipped by 1.0% considerably below expectations for slight declines of 0.2%. The reductions were mostly a result of a stronger dollar, which weakened the demand for exports.

Further tightening by the Fed is also considered bullish for the dollar, as foreign investors pile into the greenback in order to capitalize on more favorable rates. The U.S. Dollar Index, which measures the strength of the greenback versus a basket of six other major currencies, jumped more than 0.30% to an intraday high of 96.39, before closing at 96.17, up 0.11%. The index is riding a five-day winning streak, one of its highest in a year.

Yields on the U.S. 10-Year rose two basis points to 1.90%, while yields on the Germany 10-Year fell to basis points to 0.18%.

CTFC Commitment of Traders

Speculators were more bullish on oil, gold, silver, the Aussie dollar and the Japanese yen, while becoming less bullish on the euro and the S&P 500.

Note: This data closes on Wednesday so the last two days of trading are not reflected.

cot.2016.mar.23

Gold

Gold fell in Asia on Friday in holiday-thinned trade as many markets shut to mark Good Friday.

On the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange, gold for May delivery eased 0.24% to $1,213.80 a troy ounce.

Silver futures for May delivery fell 0.37% to $15.215 a troy ounce, while copper futures for May delivery rose 0.07% to $2.237 a pound.

Overnight, after dropping to near one-month lows on Thursday, amid continued gains in the dollar, gold pared earlier losses following a soft monthly durable goods report, which slowed some momentum from an improving U.S. economy.

Gold continued its slide on Thursday morning when Federal Reserve of St. Louis president James Bullard hinted that the U.S. central bank's next rate hike could be looming if the economy demonstrates continued improvement over the next few weeks. While delivering a speech in New York, Bullard noted that the Fed could raise rates when it meets again in late-April and its next rate hike "may not be far off" if inflation continues to increase and unemployment declines from December levels.

Bullard's comments come in the wake of a wave of hawkish statements by his colleagues at the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) earlier this week. On Wednesday, Philadelphia Fed president Patrick Harker also recommended that the FOMC raise rates as early as April, while suggesting as many as three rate hikes by the end of the year. Harker's statements followed comparable hawkish positions from San Francisco Fed president John Williams and Atlanta Fed president Dennis Lockhart at the start of the week.

They also jive with comments from Janet Yellen at a press conference last week when the Fed chair noted that the central bank should remain cautious with future rate hikes given persistent risks with global economic and financial conditions. At the meeting, the Fed held its benchmark Federal Funds Rate at its current targeted range between 0.25 and 0.50%. The rate continues to linger around 0.37%.

Any rate hikes this year are viewed as bearish for gold, which struggles to compete with high-yield bearing assets in rising rate environments.

Further tightening by the Fed is also considered bullish for the dollar, as foreign investors pile into the greenback in order to capitalize on more favorable rates.

Oil

Crude oil prices drifted lower in light trade on Friday in Asia with many markets shut globally to mark Good Friday.

On the New York Mercantile Exchange, WTI crude for May delivery was last quoted at $39.59 a barrel. Data on U.S. rig counts from Baker Hughes normally released on Friday is unlikely with the U.S. on a public holiday.

Overnight, crude futures were relatively flat on Thursday, one session after plunging more than 4%, as investors continued to digest a massive inventory build last week in domestic energy markets in the U.S.

Meanwhile, the spread between the international and domestic benchmark of crude stood at $1.02, above Wednesday's level of 0.74 at the close of trading.

Investors continued to react to a sizable U.S. supply build from last week when crude stockpiles nationwide surged by 9.4 million barrels from the previous week, the second-highest weekly inventory build on the year. At 532.5 million barrels, U.S. crude oil inventories are at historically high levels for this time of year.

Elsewhere, officials from the Paris-based International Energy Agency (IEA) admitted on Thursday that a highly anticipated output freeze between four major producers could essentially be "meaningless," amid views that Saudi Arabia is the only member of the group which may be able to boost production by a considerable amount. In mid-February, Saudi Arabia, Russia and two other OPEC producers agreed to freeze output at January levels in an effort to stabilize crashing oil prices. The nations could finalize a deal next month at a meeting in Doha.

"Amongst the group of countries we're aware of, only Saudi Arabia has any ability to increase its production," the IEA's head of its oil industry and markets division said on Thursday. "A freeze on production rather meaningless. It's more some kind of gesture which perhaps is aimed...to build confidence that there will be stability in oil prices."

Despite the recent rally, oil prices are still down by more than 60% from their peak in June, 2014 at $115 a barrel.

Natural Gas (Thursday Report)

U.S. natural gas futures turned higher in North American trade on Thursday, reversing losses after data showed U.S. natural gas supplies in storage rose less than expected last week.

Natural gas for delivery in April on the New York Mercantile Exchange tacked on 0.6 cents, or 0.33%, to trade at $1.800 per million British thermal units by 14:35GMT, or 10:35AM ET. Prices were at around $1.785 prior to the release of the supply data.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration said in its weekly report that natural gas storage in the U.S. in the week ended March 18 rose by 15 billion cubic feet, below expectations for an increase of 20 billion.

That compares with draws of 1 billion cubic feet in the prior week and a five-year average of around 24 billion for this time of year.

Total U.S. natural gas storage stood at 2.493 trillion cubic feet, 40.8% higher than levels at this time a year ago and 34.0% above the five-year average for this time of year.

Some market experts worry that stockpiles at the end of March will hit at an all-time high of around 2.5 trillion cubic feet, topping the end-of-withdrawal-season high of 2.369 set in 2012.

On Wednesday, natural gas plunged 6.9 cents, or 3.7%, as updated weather forecasting models pointed to spring-like temperatures across most parts of the U.S. in the weeks ahead.

Natural gas prices have closely tracked weather forecasts in recent weeks, as traders try to gauge the impact of shifting outlooks on late-winter heating demand.

Gas use typically hits a seasonal low with spring's mild temperatures, before warmer weather increases demand for gas-fired electricity generation to power air conditioning.

Natural gas futures are down nearly 20% so far this year as weak winter heating demand, near-record production and record-high storage levels dragged down prices.

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