Weekly jobless claims were released as the show began this morning. The Labor Department reported 348,000 claims were made last week. That was slightly up, by 14,000. Claims for the previous week were revised to show 2,000 fewer people filed claims than was originally reported. Meanwhile, the Commerce Department reported durable goods in January declined 1.0%, less than the 2.0% decline Wall Street expected.
Meanwhile, the S&P 500 continues to hover in the very tight range it's been in all week, trading right below the key technical level of 1850. In addition to the economic data out this morning, traders also will be watching closely Fed Chair Janet Yellen's testimony before the Senate Banking Committee to see if the weather or any recent data has led to a change in tone since her last testimony before the House two weeks ago.
Here are some other headlines we're following this morning. Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed a state senate bill last night that critics said would allow for discrimination against gays based on religious beliefs. Senate Bill 1082 would have given business owners the right to refuse service to anyone based on their religious beliefs. In announcing the veto last night, Brewer said, "I have not heard one example in Arizona where a business owner's religious liberties have been violated." Pressure on Brewer to veto the bill came from many quarters, including major organizations like the NFL, Marriott Hotels, Apple, American Airlines and Verizon.
Italian design house Versace has reached an agreement to sell a 20% stake to the Blackstone private equity group. Blackstone will invest 150 million euros of capital in return for 60 million euros in stock from the holding company that controls the fashion house. Since the company's founder Gianni Versace was murdered in 1997, it has been wholly-owned by his sister Donatella, brother Santo and niece Allegra. The deal with Blackstone puts the value of the fashion house at one billion euros, or $1.37 billion.