This Day On The Street
Continue to site
This account is pending registration confirmation. Please click on the link within the confirmation email previously sent you to complete registration.
Need a new registration confirmation email? Click here

Stocks Finish Mixed; March Jobs Report Looms

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Stocks finished on a mixed note on Thursday as Wall Street balanced expectations for a positive jobs report on Friday against concerns about Spain's soaring borrowing costs.

The Dow lost nearly 15 points, or 0.1%, to finish at 13,060. The blue-chip index ranged from 13,012 to 13,088 during the session. The S&P 500 closed down less than a point at 1398.

The Nasdaq, however, bucked the selling and rose 12 points, or 0.4%, to settle at 3080.

The major U.S. equity indices traded within a narrow range through most of the trading session, which comes ahead of a long holiday weekend as the exchanges will be closed tomorrow for Good Friday. For the week, the Dow was down 1.2%, the S&P 500 dipped 0.7%, and the Nasdaq fell 0.4%, kicking off the calendar second quarter on a negative note.

The biggest selling came on Wednesday as Wall Street digested a clear signal from the Federal Reserve on Tuesday that more quantitative easing was far from a done deal. The minutes of the most recent meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee indicated support for more asset purchases was scant unless the economy takes a turn for the worse. That news drove the dollar higher and sparked selling in gold and oil.

Early Thursday, the action in the broad market mirrored a sell-off in risk assets during the European session as yields on Spanish 10-year bonds rose another 12 basis points to 5.81%. The yields reached a pinnacle for the year and raced past levels seen when the European Central Bank installed the first leg of its long-term refinancing program on Dec. 21 by more than 50 basis points.

The tepid demand for Spanish debt was a reminder that the country could be next in line for a bailout as global investors showed they were not yet prepared to hold the country's bonds without a higher risk premium.

With the Spanish economy slipping further into the doldrums, Madrid has cautioned that the country's debt-to-gross domestic product ratio could soar to 79.8% in 2012 from 68.5% last year. The country is already dealing with widespread joblessness with the unemployment rate above 20% and will likely face further obstacles to growth with the government's severe budget cuts.

"Stress has returned to the periphery of the Euro area. Since the beginning of March, Spanish bond yields have risen by 80 [basis points]," J.P. Morgan analyst David Mackie wrote in a report. "The Spanish government has made a number of missteps in recent weeks which have raised questions about its credibility, and it is this that is making investors reluctant to purchase Spanish debt."

London's FTSE edged up 0.4%, reclaiming positive territory as the session closed. Germany's DAX retreated 0.1%, paring losses. In Asia, Japan's Nikkei Average fell 0.5% and Hong Kong's Hang Seng index closed lower by almost 1%.

In the U.S., a solid jobless claims report provided some support for the markets. Weekly initial jobless claims came in at 357,000, the lowest level in four years. While the number was slightly higher than a consensus estimate of 355,000, it was a decline from the prior week's revised figure of 363,000 and brought the four-week moving average down by 4,250 to 361,750. Continuing claims for the week ended March 24 fell 16,000 to a seasonally adjusted 3.34 million.

Earlier Thursday, global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas said U.S. employers announced sharply fewer job cuts in March compared with the previous year. The firm said layoffs announced by U.S.-based employers totaled 37,880 for the month, 27% below the 51,728 job cuts announced in February and a 9% decline from last year when 41,528 planned layoffs were recorded. It was also the lowest monthly layoff tally since 37,135 job cuts were announced last May.

The positive data arrives ahead of the all-important March jobs report from the Labor Department on Friday. Investors will be hoping for a fourth straight month of 200,000-plus jobs growth. The current average estimate of economists surveyed by Thomson Reuters sits at 203,000.

Breadth within the Dow was negative with 19 of the index's 30 components finishing in the negative territory. The leading percentage losers among the blue-chips were Alcoa (AA), AT&T (T), Verizon (VZ) and General Electric (GE).

Home Depot (HD) was a bright spot, gaining 1.5%. Other Dow gainers included American Express (AXP), McDonalds (MCD), Microsoft (MSFT) and Wal-Mart (WMT).

Tech behemoth Apple (AAPL - Get Report) set another all-time high after Jefferies analyst Peter Misek raised his price target to $800, citing the likelihood of the tech giant introducing an Apple TV set in the fourth quarter of this year. The stock rose 1.5% to close at $633.68 after running as high as $634.66 to eclipse a previous peak of $632.21.

A number of other analysts have raised their Apple price targets in recent days, including Topeka Capital's Brian White, who Tuesday put a $1,001 price target on the stock, the highest on Wall Street; and Piper Jaffray's Gene Munster, who said the company could be the first to garner a trillion-dollar market cap on Wednesday and put his target at $910.

In corporate news, Constellation Brands (STZ - Get Report) was among the biggest losers within the S&P 500, falling nearly 13% after delivering a disappointing full-year earnings outlook.
1 of 2

Check Out Our Best Services for Investors

Action Alerts PLUS

Portfolio Manager Jim Cramer and Director of Research Jack Mohr reveal their investment tactics while giving advanced notice before every trade.

Product Features:
  • $2.5+ million portfolio
  • Large-cap and dividend focus
  • Intraday trade alerts from Cramer
Quant Ratings

Access the tool that DOMINATES the Russell 2000 and the S&P 500.

Product Features:
  • Buy, hold, or sell recommendations for over 4,300 stocks
  • Unlimited research reports on your favorite stocks
  • A custom stock screener
Stocks Under $10

David Peltier uncovers low dollar stocks with serious upside potential that are flying under Wall Street's radar.

Product Features:
  • Model portfolio
  • Stocks trading below $10
  • Intraday trade alerts
14-Days Free
Only $9.95
14-Days Free
Dividend Stock Advisor

David Peltier identifies the best of breed dividend stocks that will pay a reliable AND significant income stream.

Product Features:
  • Diversified model portfolio of dividend stocks
  • Updates with exact steps to take - BUY, HOLD, SELL
Trifecta Stocks

Every recommendation goes through 3 layers of intense scrutiny—quantitative, fundamental and technical analysis—to maximize profit potential and minimize risk.

Product Features:
  • Model Portfolio
  • Intra Day Trade alerts
  • Access to Quant Ratings
Real Money

More than 30 investing pros with skin in the game give you actionable insight and investment ideas.

Product Features:
  • Access to Jim Cramer's daily blog
  • Intraday commentary and news
  • Real-time trading forums
Only $49.95
14-Days Free
14-Days Free
AAPL $93.74 0.00%
PLCM $11.95 0.00%
STZ $156.06 0.00%
FB $117.58 0.00%
GOOG $693.01 0.00%


Chart of I:DJI
DOW 17,773.64 -57.12 -0.32%
S&P 500 2,065.30 -10.51 -0.51%
NASDAQ 4,775.3580 -29.9330 -0.62%

Free Reports

Top Rated Stocks Top Rated Funds Top Rated ETFs