NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Stocks were slightly lower in volatile trading Thursday morning with the S&P 500 trimming earlier losses after earnings from Citigroup(C) - Get Report and Bank of America(BAC) - Get Report disappointed Wall Street. A rally in crude oil faded fast, and the Swiss National Bank unexpectedly removed a currency cap.
The S&P 500 was down 0.28%, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.19%, and the Nasdaq slid 0.28%.
Bank of America and Citigroup tumbled after both reported quarterly revenue and profits below estimates. A day earlier, JPMorgan(JPM) - Get Report tanked after the bank racked up nearly $1 billion in legal costs associated with government investigations in the fourth quarter. WellsFargo(WFC) - Get Report also declined on a so-so quarterly report.
Crude oil trading was volatile after the commodity posted its biggest gain in two-and-a-half years on Wednesday. Earlier Thursday, West Texas Intermediate had rallied more than 3% and reclaimed a level above $50 a barrel. By midmorning, oil had fallen 0.29% to $48.34 a barrel.
"It's more short-covering," said Michael Ball, portfolio manager of Weatherstone Capital Management, about the increased volatility in oil. "As people watch crude steadily come down, nervously trying to pick a bottom, once they started to see crude start to stabilize and move higher, they're now rushing in."
The Swiss National Bank unsettled global markets by scrapping its four-year-old cap on its currency, removing the 1.20 floor against the euro. Shortly after the announcement, the franc soared nearly 30% against the euro. The euro is now down around 12% against the franc at $1.0544.
European markets suffered a choppy trading session with Germany's DAX losing 250 points in the minutes after the Swiss National Bank's announcements before bouncing back. The Swiss Market Index plummeted more than 10% as investors fled in favor of "safe haven" assets such as gold and bonds.
Initial jobless claims jumped 19,000 to 316,000 for the week ended Jan. 10, higher than estimates for 295,000. A week earlier, 299,000 people had filed new claims for unemployment benefits, revised upward from 294,000.
"We attribute the spike to the seasonal adjustment process," said Barclays analyst Jesse Hurwitz in a report. "We expect initial and continuing claims to resume their downward trend in the coming weeks and reflect broader improvement in labor markets."
The Producer Price Index for December fell 0.3%, reflecting the impact of lower gasoline prices, a slightly deeper dip than a 0.2% decrease in November. Economists had expected a drop of 0.4%. Excluding volatile items such as gas, core prices climbed 0.3% compared to an expected 0.1% increase.
Business activity in the mid-Atlantic region fell to its lowest level in nearly a year, according to the Philadelphia Fed Survey. The measure slipped to 6.3 from 24.3 in December. Economists had expected a reading of 19.9.
BlackBerry (BBRY) shares were coming back down to earth after soaring nearly 30% Wednesday afternoon on Samsung takeover rumors. The smartphone maker denied reports that Samsung had approached it with an offer. Shares dropped 16.6%.
Adobe(ADBE) - Get Report shares gained 1.2% as its board announced a new $2 billion buyback program through to 2017. The company has been active in repurchasing stock, buying up $689 million over fiscal 2014.
RadioShack (RSH) plummeted nearly 30% on reports it could file for bankruptcy as early as next month. The electronics retailer had depleted cash reserves following a failed turnaround attempt, according to the Wall Street Journal.
--Written by Keris Alison Lahiff in New York.