Stocks ended the first quarter at an all-time high.
First the scoreboard:
Dow: 14,578, +52.3 pts, +0.3 percent
S&P 500: 1,569, +6.3 pts, +0.4 percent
NASDAQ: 3,267, +11.0 pts, +0.3 percent
And now the top stories:
- Today's stock market rally came in the face of four pieces of disappointing economic data.
- The final reading of Q4 GDP growth came in at +0.4 percent, which was below expectations for +0.5 percent. Much of this was due to personal consumption, which was revised down to +1.8 percent; economists were looking for +2.1 percent.
- Initial jobless claims jumped to 357k, which was higher than the 340k economists were expecting. The four-week moving average is now a 343k, which is a tad higher than last week's measure of 340k. Still, jobless claims are very close to 5-year lows.
- The Chicago PMI fell to 52.4 from 56.8 a month ago. Economists were looking for a reading of 56.5. "Clearly, this was a disappointing report and it provides some modest downside risks to our forecast for only a modest decline in the ISM manufacturing sector index next week," said TD Securities Millan Mulraine. "However, given the high volatility in the Chicago PMI series, particularly over the past few months, we will caution about reading too much into it."
- Rounding out the economic reports was the Kansas City Fed Manufacturing index, which improved to just -5 from last month's reading of -10. Economists were looking for -3. Any number below 0 indicates contraction.
- On the plus side, Cyprus's banks reopenned for the first time since March 16. Some euro-watchers warned that there would be chaos as Cypriots attempt to drain and close their accounts. However, regulators imposed capital controls on the banks intended to prevent runs.
- "If controls are in fact lifted after 7 days, large deposits from overseas customers are highly likely to be withdrawn, assuming they have another haven to move to," said TD Securities Richard Gihooly. "This impact has merely been delayed, not avoided, and will possibly be seen 7 days from now."
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