The broad indexes ended mixed again. The S&P 500 (SPX.X) index has now risen 7% year-to-date. A sure sign of a strong market and increased confidence in the U.S. economic recovery is the number of recent large M&A deals, including Thursday's announced agreement for Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.B) to combine with 3G Capital in paying about $28 billion in cash to acquire H.J. Heinz (HNZ).
Other recent large M&A deals include General Electric's (GE) agreement to sell its remaining stake in NBCUniversal to Comcast (CMCSA) for roughly $16.7 billion in cash and stock, and the $24.4 billion offer by Michael Dell and private equity investors to take Dell (DELL) private.
The Labor Department reported Thursday that initial unemployment claims for the week ended Feb. 9 totaled 341,000, declining by 27,000 from the previous week's upwardly revised figure of 368,000. The consensus among economists was for initial jobless claims to come in at 363,000, according to Zacks. The four-week moving average was 352,500, an increase of 1,500 from the previous week's average of 351,000.Continuing unemployment claims for the week ended Feb 2 totaled $3.114 million, declining by 130,000 from the previous week. The KBW Bank Index (I:BKX) was up slightly to close at 55.47.
Shares of JPMorgan Chase have returned 13% year-to-date, following a 36% return during 2012. The shares trade just above tangible book value, according to Thomson Reuters Bank Insight, and for 8.5 times the consensus 2014 earnings estimate of $5.77 a share, among analysts polled by Thomson Reuters. The consensus 2013 EPS estimate is $5.43. Based on a quarterly payout of $0.30, the shares have a dividend yield of 2.44%. Guggenheim analyst Marty Mosby rates JPMorgan Chase a "buy," and on Feb. 5 raised his price target for the shares to $61.00 from $55.00, while raising his 2013 EPS estimate for the company to $5.80 from $5.47 and his 2013 EPS estimate to $6.46 from $6.40. Mosby raised price targets and earnings estimates for most of the large-cap banks covered by his firm, predicting that 2013 would be another strong recovery year for the industry, and saying in a report that Guggenheim's 2013 earnings estimates "remain about 5% higher than the market consensus, due to expected positive impacts from efficiency gains and share repurchases this year."