Stocks Fluctuate as Oil Prices Stabilize; Wells Fargo Under Scrutiny - TheStreet

Stocks fluctuated on Thursday as equities and oil stabilized after a late-session rally a day earlier. 

The S&P 500 was down 0.04%, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 0.06%, and the Nasdaq fell 0.34%.

Crude oil stabilized after big gains seen on Wednesday as traders questioned how much of an impact a deal among Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries would have on an oversupplied market. OPEC agreed to limit oil production to 32.5 million barrels a day following a three-day energy meeting in Algeria. Members had shown reluctance to agree to any deal and cede market share.

"Let's not forget non-OPEC producers who would not be subject to any such agreement if it were indeed actually ratified," Stephen Guilfoyle, chief market economist at Stuart Frankel & Co., wrote in a note. "Curtailing output could just be handing over market share to others who will gladly seize it."

West Texas Intermediate crude oil was up 0.4% to $47.18 a barrel on Thursday after settling Wednesday at its best level in three weeks.  Technical analyst Helene Meisler of Real Money, TheStreet's premium site for active traders, writes that a sustained move upward for oil would help the S&P 500 break out of a trading range that it's been stuck in since July. Click here to check out her latest technical read of the market.

Wells Fargo (WFC) - Get Report CEO John Stumpf was under Capitol Hill scrutiny again on Thursday, arguing that there had been no "orchestrated effort" of customer fraud. The bank has been under pressure to explain and correct a recent scandal wherein its retail-banking division created up to 2 million unauthorized customer accounts to meet sales targets. The bank has since agreed to a $185 million settlement with government officials over a sales fraud investigation.

Stumpf also said the bank would discontinue all sales goals by the end of the week. Stumpf told the House Financial Services Committee the bank no longer needed those targets to grow.

Late Wednesday, California State Treasurer John Chiang implemented a number of sanctions against Wells Fargo as punishment for unethical sales practices. The year-long sanctions suspend Wells Fargo from certain activities, including underwriting state debt.

Wells Fargo is a holding in Jim Cramer's Action Alerts PLUS Charitable Trust Portfolio. Want to be alerted before Cramer buys or sells WFC? Learn more now.

The U.S. economy grew at a faster pace than originally expected, according to the final estimate of second-quarter GDP growth. The economy grew 1.4% over the quarter, up from 1.1% growth previously estimated. Consumer spending, which contributes to two-thirds of the economy, increased 4.3% over the quarter.

Jobless claims increased in the past week, according to the Department of Labor. The number of new claims for unemployment increased by 3,000 to 254,000. Analysts anticipated a larger uptick to 260,000. The less-volatile, four-week average fell by 2,250 to 256,000. Claims have remained below the 300,000 mark for 82 straight weeks, the best stretch since 1970.

Pending home sales in August fell to their lowest level in seven months as constrained supply softened activity. The measure, which tracks contracts signed but a deal not closed, declined 2.4% to 108.5 in August. Economists had anticipated a 0.5% increase. 

The international trade balance narrowed by $400 million in August to a deficit of $58.4 billion. Economists had anticipated the deficit to widen to $62.6 billion.

A train crashed into the Hoboken, N.J., train station on Thursday morning, killing at least one person and injuring around 100, according to authorities. New Jersey Transit tweeted earlier that NJ Transit rail service and PATH train service would be suspended at the station until further notice. Hoboken is a hub for many workers on Wall Street.

It's a second busy day for Federal Reserve talk, which could illuminate how quickly the next rate hike could come. Topping the list, Fed Chair Janet Yellen will participate in the Kansas City Fed's Minority Bankers Forum via video conference in the evening. Yellen said on Wednesday that accommodative policy would need to be removed, though "probably not that much," if the economy continues to improve as expected.

Elsewhere, Philadelphia Fed President Patrick Harker will address the Global Interdependence Center's Central Banking Series in Dublin; Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart will speak at the 2016 Future of Florida Forum in Orlando; Fed Board Gov. Jerome Powell will deliver the keynote address at the Community Banking in the 21st Century conference; Minneapolis Fed President Neel Kashkari will speak in Rapid City, S.D., and Kansas City Fed President Esther George will give a speech on the banking industry.

PepsiCo (PEP) - Get Report gained nearly 2% after topping quarterly earnings estimates and boosting its full-year outlook. The soda and snacks company expects full-year core earnings of $4.78 a share, 6 cents higher than a previous forecast. Consensus was for $4.76 a share. Its North American beverage and Frito-Lay units, the two biggest revenue drivers, reported an increase in sales and volume in the recent quarter.

PepsiCo is a holding in Jim Cramer's Action Alerts PLUS Charitable Trust Portfolio. Want to be alerted before Cramer buys or sells PEP? Learn more now.

Pier1 Imports (PIR) - Get Report rose 10% after reporting a narrower-than-expected loss in its recent quarter. A net loss of 5 cents a share was a penny less than the loss analysts had expected. The homewares retailer anticipates a sales decline of 2% to 4% in its third quarter.

ConAgra (CAG) - Get Report increased 7% after swinging to a quarterly profit. Adjusted earnings of 61 cents a share came in far higher than an expected 48 cents. Sales were weaker with grocery and snacks falling 5.4% and refrigerated and frozen products dropping 8%. 

Viacom (VIA.B)  and CBS (CBS) - Get Report were on watch after National Amusements officially called upon the two companies to consider a merger agreement. News broke on Wednesday that the Sumner Redstone firm, the controlling shareholder of both companies, had been orchestrating negotiations between the boards.

eBay (EBAY) - Get Report gained 2% after being upgraded to buy from hold at Deutsche Bank. The firm said the company is transitioning its platform, historically a good time to buy an internet stock.