red car upsided down backwardREUTERS/Toby Melville

The S&P 500 fell for a fourth straight day, wiping out gains for the year in a choppy trading session.

First, the scoreboard:

  • Dow: 17,678.23 -40.31 (-0.23%)
  • S&P 500: 2,056.15 -4.90 (-0.24%)
  • Nasdaq: 4,863.36 -13.16 (-0.27%)

And now, the top stories on Thursday:

  1. Initial jobless claims fell to 282,000 last week from 291,000 in the previous period, beating expectations for 290,000. Pantheon Macroeconomics’ Ian Shepherdson wrote in an email: “If claims are sustained at this level, or anything like it, and hiring indicators remain at current levels, then payroll growth will remain very rapid and the steady decline in the unemployment rate will continue.”
  2. Also in economic data, Markit’s flash reading on services PMI rose to a 6-month high of 58.6 in final March, compared to 57.1 in February. Economists had estimated a print of 57.0, according to Bloomberg.
  3. West Texas Intermediate crude oil traded above $ 51 following a late surge on Wednesday. Saudi Arabia began a military operation against Iranian-supported Houthi rebels in neighboring Yemen, which borders a key narrow strait for oil tanker traffic. Near the close, WTI jumped by more than 5% to as high as $ 51.35 per barrel. Last week, it fell to a six-year low at around $ 43 a barrel. 
  4. Meanwhile, Barclays analysts say we’ve not seen the bottom in oil prices. “Oil prices have been supported by temporary factors that are fading fast and markets are likely to continue testing fresh lows for crude oil prices,” they wrote in a note published Thursday. “We think a recovery in the second-half of the year is possible, but contingent on prices falling low enough over the next few months to substantially reduce potential non-OPEC supply growth and stimulate demand.” WTI prices will bottom somewhere in the mid-$ 30s and Brent crude somewhere in the mid-$ 40s, Barclays forecasts. 
  5. Goldman Sachs slashed its year-end 10-year Treasury forecast, as well as yields on the benchmark notes in Germany, Japan and the UK. Goldman now sees the 10-year US note ending 2015 at 2.5% (from 3.0% previously), German Bunds at 0.5% (from 0.75% previously), UK Gilts at 2.00% (from 2.50% previously) and JGBs at 60bp (from 80bp previously). The spread between US rates and Euro area rates has widened as central banks in both region implement divergent monetary policies.
  6. Home prices have grown 13 times faster than wages in the housing recovery, according to a study by RealtyTrac. The Detroit-Warren-Livonia metro area in Michigan had the biggest gap between wage and house prices growth, with a 57.1% jump in home prices vs 4.9% for wages. Nationwide, Home prices have grown 17%, versus the paltry 1.3% appreciation in median wages.
  7. Lululemon shares surged after it reported better-than-expected earnings, although guidance for the current quarter and full year were weak. The stock rose by more than 7% to as high as $ 66.89 per share. Earlier on Thursday, the company reported that net revenues increased 16% to $ 602.5 million from $ 521.0 million in the previous period. Comparable store sales rose by 5% on a constant dollar basis, and direct to consumer net revenue increased 20% on a constant dollar basis.
  8. Piper Jaffray analysts are convinced biotech stocks are not in a bubble. “Once again, we see misguided concerns regarding the biotech valuations, which unfortunately represent a blend of the true earnings growth companies as well as those which are just ramping into earnings growth and thus have disproportionately high but not representative P/E multiples,” they wrote in a note Thursday. The sector has sold off this week, down 5.8%, but it’s up 9.2% year-to-date.

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