Mixed economic news combined with a supportive Federal Reserve helped propel the S&P 500 to new highs. On Monday, Fed Chair Janet Yellen reiterated that the exceptionally weak job market requires extraordinary support and the central bank will still be accommodative for quite some time. Two weeks ago, she hinted that interest rates could go up as early as next year, but her latest comments suggest that is unlikely.
On Tuesday, the ISM Manufacturing Index for March rose to 53.7, up from February’s 53.2. Although it wasn’t quite as strong as hoped, it prompted a rally, based on optimism from the economy surviving the unusually severe winter weather.
On Wednesday, factory orders for February showed a larger than expected jump of 1.6%. In addition, ADP released its private payroll numbers for March showing 191,000 jobs, up from 178,000 in February. Markets rallied on the good news.
On Thursday, jobless claims for the week ending March 29 came in at 326,000, up from the prior week’s 310,000. Growth continued in the service sector with the ISM Non-Manufacturing Index coming in at 53.1 for March, up from February’s 51.6. The U.S. trade deficit increased 7.7% to $42.3 billion in February, due to exports slowing to their lowest levels in five months.
On Friday, the Jobs Report for March was slightly lower than expectations, showing an increase of 192,000, compared to February’s 197,000. The unemployment rate was unchanged at 6.7%. Markets were up on the news.
Now let’s take a look at some stocks.
All eyes were on Twitter (NYSE: TWTR) Thursday as Turkish authorities announced that the country has lifted its ban on Twitter use. It was deemed that the ban, initiated on March 21st, violated freedom of speech and individual rights. The ban was instituted in response to the use of Twitter to leak wiretap recordings of certain senior officials. Twitter use has now been reinstated, however, YouTube, also banned is still not viewable in Turkey.
Amazon.com (NASDAQ: AMZN) unveiled their latest product, Fire TV, a gaming and video streaming device that fits in the palm of a hand. Fire TV possesses capabilities similar to Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) TV and Google’s (NASDAQ: GOOG) Chromecast. Fire TV will offer a solid platform for Amazon’s current video streaming service, but more importantly, the new product allows Amazon to compete in a market that is set to grow by approximately 24% this year. Analysts were on both sides of the fence in lieu of this product release; some claiming that Amazon developed a product that consumers did not need while others thought it was a great option for casual gamers and video streamers.
Plug Power Inc. (NASDAQ: PLUG) announced Wednesday they acquired the assets of ReliOn Inc., a developer of hydrogen fuel cell stack technology and fuel cell systems located in Spokane, WA. The acquisition, valued at approximately $4 million, which will be paid with Plug stock and will allow Plug to integrate ReliOn’s technology and products into Plug’s fuel cell systems.
Google’s (NASDAQ: GOOG) stock received massive attention Thursday after the company’s two-for-one stock split took effect. Stocks with no voting rights attached to it are traded under the old GOOG ticker, while stocks with voting rights are traded under a new ticker, GOOGL. Both tickers experienced gains in the market, post-split.