It was a relatively quiet day as many traders and investors closed up shop early for the Easter and Passover holidays. Weekly jobless claims data ticked higher to 357,000 from last week's 341,000, a troublesome sign as the recent average had been at 339,000. Equally worrisome was the Chicago regional PMI, which ticked down to 56.5 from 52.4 on contracting new orders and production. The final estimate of 4Q GDP continued to tick higher to 0.4% from the prior estimates of 0.1% and -0.1%. The other revisions were unchanged with the exception of personal consumption, which ticked down to 1.8% from 2.1%.
BlackBerry (BBRY) reported fourth-quarter earnings this morning. The smartphone maker reported lower-than-expected revenues and unit shipments, but earnings were significantly ahead of consensus. The stock was very volatile in early trading, but finished roughly flat.
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Cyprus banks opened for business today, but no major lines to withdraw cash were seen as capital controls remain in place for another week. Deposits could continue to filter out electronically so we'll have to wait and see what the results are in the coming weeks. In Italy, Pier Bersani was unable to form a coalition government and passed the mandate back to President Napolitano. This will lead to a vote of confidence in Bersani or a push to form a grand coalition government. Chinese markets were significantly lower today as regional governments continued to tighten lending standards to prevent a real estate bubble from continuing to form. The Shanghai Composite Index fell 2.82%.
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Natural gas companies rallied as the US government removed sanctions to allow shale gas to be exported to Japan. Liquid natural gas shippers such as Cheniere Energy Partners (CQP) and Teekay LNG Partners (TGP) all posted solid gains for the day.
Tomorrow's Financial Outlook
US markets will be closed tomorrow, but the US will still release personal income and spending data. Both are expected to show nominal gains in February despite significant drops in January. Personal income is expected to rise 0.8% from January's 3.6% drop, and personal spending will continue to increase from 0.2% to 0.6%. Core personal consumer expenditures are forecast to remain unchanged at 1.3% year-over-year. On Monday, we receive the ISM manufacturing index and February's construction spending data. The ISM manufacturing index is forecast to remain unchanged at 54.2 from the prior month, which is probably a bit optimistic given the recent manufacturing surveys that have been reported.
Global economic data that will be reported overnight includes Japanese housing starts and a Chinese business sentiment indicator. On Monday, while European markets are closed, the only data released will be two Chinese manufacturing PMI indexes.
There will be no major earnings reports on Friday or Monday.