Stocks open higher on Thursday

Stocks on track for losing week

With more than half of the trading week in the rearview mirror, the three major indexes are poised to see losses.

The Dow has led the way down this week, dropping 1.7%. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite have slipped 0.8% and 0.6%, respectively.

— Alex Harring

Jobless claims, trade deficit both post increases

Initial filings for unemployment compensation increased more than expected last week, hitting their highest level since late January.

Jobless claims totaled 221,000 for the week ended March 30, up 9,000 from the previous week and higher than the Dow Jones estimate for 213,000, the Labor Department reported Thursday. That was the highest total since Jan. 27. Continuing claims, which run a week behind, edged lower to 1.79 million, below the FactSet estimate for 1.81 million.

In other economic news, the Commerce Department reported that the trade deficit rose to $68.9 billion in February, up $1.3 billion on the month and higher than the $67.7 billion Dow Jones estimate. That was the highest imbalance on the goods and services measure going back to April 2023.

— Jeff Cox

Stocks making the biggest moves before the bell: Levi Strauss, Wayfair and more

These are the stocks moving the most in premarket trading:

Read the full list of stocks moving here.

— Lisa Kailai Han

Planned job cuts hit highest since January 2023

Planned layoffs in March accelerated at their fastest pace in more than a year though the trend to start the year has been lower, according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

The outplacement firm reported Thursday that announced job cuts for the month totaled 90,309, a 7% increase from February and slightly above the same month a year ago. The monthly total, though, was the highest since January 2023.

However, the first-quarter total of 2024 showed a 5% decline from the same period a year ago as cuts in technology tumbled 59%, media fell 33% and financial sector layoffs declined 6%. Layoffs at transportation firms soared 483% and catapulted 726% higher in industrial goods manufacturing.

—Jeff Cox

Japan ex-currency diplomat says no yen intervention unless it drops beyond 155 to the dollar: Reuters

Japan will not intervene in the currency market unless the yen weakens beyond 155 against the U.S. dollar, according to Hiroshi Watanabe, Japan’s top currency diplomat from 2004 to 2007.

Reuters reported that Watanabe said the chance of intervention was slim for now, since the yen’s declines have been within a broad range unlike in 2022, when the currency was falling more sharply.

He added that while markets are monitoring the 152 level against the greenback, Japanese authorities likely won’t see any break above that level alone as a strong enough reason to intervene.

The yen last traded at 151.68 against the dollar.

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Oil climbs to highest level since October 2023, gold scales a fresh peak

Crude oil prices on Thursday climbed to their highest level since October 2023 on investor concerns about supply disruptions due to conflict in the Middle East.

Brent futures were trading 0.21% higher at $89.53 per barrel, while West Texas Intermediate futures were up 0.25% at $85.62 per barrel.

Separately, spot gold hit a fresh high before giving up some gains. It was last trading at $2,300.2 per ounce.

— Lim Hui Jie

Beijing issued ‘informal instructions’ to Syngenta to withdraw $9 billion IPO: Reuters

Chinese authorities had “nudged” Swiss agrichemicals and seeds group Syngenta to withdraw its application for a $9 billion IPO, according to a Reuters report.

Citing people familiar with the matter, Reuters said that this was due to concerns about the impact a sizeable new offering would have on a volatile market.

“The planned flotation finally came unstuck after Syngenta, owned by Sinochem, in March received informal instructions from the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) to pull its bid for the mega listing,” the report said.

Last May, Sygenta filed its application to list in Shanghai and raise 65 billion yuan ($8.98 billion), with its executives saying as recently as November that it planned to list in 2024.

The company announced last week that it was withdrawing its bid to list, “after careful consideration of industry environment and the company’s own development strategy.”

— Lim Hui Jie, Reuters

The S&P energy sector closes at a new record – a first since 2014

The surge in the energy sector – now up nearly 16% in 2024 – comes as crude oil futures touch their highest levels since last October, rising amid geopolitical tensions and OPEC+ policy.

As the major averages struggle to maintain their first quarter momentum, the energy sector is the leader within the S&P 500, up 2.84% in the second quarter.

Darla Mercado, Gina Francolla

Gold, Japanese stocks and U.S. stocks all reaching “escape velocity,” one strategist says

Prices for gold, Japanese stocks and U.S. stocks are all reaching “escape velocity,” according to Larry Jeddeloh of TIS Group and The Institutional Strategist newsletter.

With gold at all-time highs (at least nominally), “there is no overhead resistance left,” Jeddeloh wrote Wednesday. “[C]entral banks all over the world have become heavy buyers of gold…the interest of central banks in holding alternatives to sovereign bonds already exists and it will grow,” leaving gold “in orbit.” The short-term target for gold may be $2,440-$2,490 an ounce, and $3,000 long term, he wrote.

Similarly, the Nikkei 225 index of Japanese stocks “has broken out to an all-time high and if I apply a measured move analysis to the chart, the long-term target is about 71,000,” the strategist wrote. “[I]n time and price this market could go a long way,” partly because Japanese stocks are underowned by so many domestic and international investors.

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Nikkei 225 index of Japanese stocks over past 12 months.

Finally, the S&P 500 has also “hit escape velocity,” wrote Jeddeloh, who earlier in his career was chief investment strategist at UBS in Zurich. “This is another big cap, liquid market which is on all-time highs, there is no overhead resistance, there is earnings growth, GDP growth, a central bank which is limited in what it can do with interest rate rises, but has a lot of incentive to cut rates. Like Japan, foreign investors do not own enough of SPX,” he wrote. At the same time, “U.S. companies operate global franchises, are technology leaders and next-gen technologies are liquid and have name recognition.”

— Scott Schnipper

Stocks making the biggest moves after hours

Check out the companies making headlines in extended trading.

Levi Strauss & Co — Shares jumped 8% after the company posted an earnings and revenue beat in the first quarter. The apparel company reported adjusted earnings of 26 cents per share on $1.56 billion in revenue. Analysts surveyed by LSEG had expected 21 cents earnings per share on $1.55 billion in revenue. Levi’s also raised its full-year profit guidance.

Blackberry — The cybersecurity stock jumped 7.8% after the company announced better-than-expected quarterly results. BlackBerry reported losses of 3 cents per share, versus consensus estimates of 4 cents losses per share, according to StreetAccount. Revenue came in at $173 million, beating forecasts of 150.5 million.

Simulations Plus — The small cap stock gained more than 7% after releasing its fiscal second-quarter results. The company, which develops software for pharmaceutical drug discovery, topped quarterly estimates on both top and bottom lines. Management also reaffirmed its full-year guidance that came above estimates.

— Hakyung Kim

Stock futures open flat

U.S. stock futures traded near the flatline Wednesday night.

Dow Jones Industrial Average futures inched up just 4 points, or 0.01%.

Futures tied to the S&P 500 and Nasdaq-100 ticked up 0.04% and 0.05%, respectively.

— Hakyung Kim


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