Thursday, April 8, 2010

Unemployment, Retail Offer Mixed Picture

Stocks opened the day to the downside, nervous about the persistently high level of unemployment claims. Initial claim came in this morning at 460,000, about 25,000 more than had been expected. They've been in that mid-400,000 range for months and don't seem to be changing much. Continuing claims were down by 131,000, which somewhat tempered the pessimism.

Once stocks began trading, however, everybody became a buyer in what turned into a day-long rally, ending on the upside for all of the major indices. Retail sales figures for March were generally superior, though they did happen to include the week prior to Easter, which fell in April last year, skewing comparisons for same-store sales throughout the industry.

Again, they proved good enough to entice investors to buy, or at least not run screaming from them. Most of the economic data of late has been mixed, except for housing and unemployment, which remain seminally ugly.

Dow 10,927.07, +29.55 (0.27%)
NASDAQ 2,436.81, +5.65 (0.23%)
S&P 500 1,186.43, +3.99 (0.34%)
NYSE Composite 7,565.33, +19.15 (0.25%)

Advancers took back the edge from decliners, 3396-3016. New highs are beginning to come back to earth, only 398 of them today, as opposed to 27 new lows. Volume was better than normal, though still below 2003-07 levels.

NYSE Volume 5,246,828,500
NASDAQ Volume 2,342,815,500

Oil trended lower for the second straight day, losing 49 cents, to $85.39. Gold dipped 10 cents, to $1,152.20 and silver fell 7 cents, to $18.12. The day in commodities lacked clear direction.

More attention was being paid to Tiger Woods' return to golf at the Masters than the prices of stocks today. Between that distraction and generally nice weather, it's surprising anybody even shows up to trade on the Street these days.

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