Initial weekly jobless claims declined by 5,000 claims to 457,000. Economists had been forecasting a slightly larger drop, to 455,000. Meanwhile, February consumer prices didn't change after rising 0.2% in January, according to the Labor Department. Economists had expected growth of 0.1%. Core CPI, which excludes volatile food and energy prices, rose 0.1%, as expected, after declining 0.1% in January.
"Inflation remained well contained in February, with both the consumer price index and the producer price index showing only minimal gains for the month," said PNC chief economist Stuart Hoffman. "The headline consumer price index was unchanged in February. Falling energy prices were offset by gains in medical care and used car prices." Hoffman noted that housing also continues to drag down the index. As expected, leading economic indicators rose 0.1% in February, after rising 0.3% in January, according to the Conference Board. Business activity in the Mid-Atlantic states was much stronger than expected, according to the Philadelphia Fed Index , which came in at 18.9 in March. Economists had anticipated a reading of 18, after February's level of 17.6. "It seems like about a year ago we were starting to talk about green shoots and these are clearly green shoots," Mike Schenk of Credit Union National Association said of today's data. "The numbers that we saw today are overall good news. We think the employment situation will look a lot better when the next nonfarm payrolls number comes out for three reasons: First, because February's bad weather dampened job growth; second, because of Census hiring; and third, from old-fashioned job growth." "Having said that, we don't think growth will be overly fast or overly strong. It'll be subdued growth," Schenk said, citing the high level of debt held by the average household and a renewed effort to rebuild wealth by increasing savings. Read on for details on FedEx and Nike earnings and company news.