Stock market news today, March 20 2014: The Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped 0.7% on Wednesday to end at 16,222.17. The Nasdaq lost 0.59% to finish 4,307.60, while the S&P 500 slid 0.61% to 1,860.77.
Global markets and U.S. futures were down this morning following the announcement yesterday (Wednesday) by U.S. Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen that the central bank could increase interest rates ahead of market expectations, as early as Spring 2015.
Five Biggest Stories in Today's Stock Market, March 20, 2014
- Get Your Annual Checkup: The Federal Reserve will publish its annual stress results for the largest U.S. banks, including JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM), Morgan Stanley (NYSE: MS), and Citigroup (NYSE: C). If there is any indication that one of these 30 companies lacks enough cash to weather another financial crisis, it will have less than a week to change plans to return dividends or other forms of capital to shareholders, according to Reuters. This comes just hours after William Dudley, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, raised eyebrows across the financial world by questioning the status of the leverage ratio in the U.S. banking system.
- The Backlash Begins: Express Employment Professionals, the largest private staffing firm in the U.S., released a survey stating that 38% of employers will lay off portions of their work force in the event of a national minimum wage increase. The study follows proposals by U.S. President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress to raise the minimum wage in the private sector from $7.25 to $10.10 per hour. Furthermore, the survey of 1,213 businesses and HR leaders states that 54% of companies would reduce hiring after any law's passage, while 65% would raise prices to pass along increased costs to consumers.
- So Long Commodities: JPMorgan Chase announced plans to sell its physical commodity business to Mercuria Energy Group for $3.5 billion, according to the Associated Press. The company cited new laws like the Volcker Rule that limit a bank's ability to manage oil refineries, power plants, and warehouses or trade from their own accounts. Such regulations come in the wake of revelations in the last year that major financial institutions were rigging commodity prices by holding assets off the market or keeping them in transit for extended periods. Several additional banks are currently eyeing the exits in physical commodities as well, including Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank, and Morgan Stanley. The latter already sold its physical oil business to Russia's Rosneft in December 2013.
- Chinese Expectations Fall: Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS) is the latest U.S. bank to slash its GDP forecasts for China. The bank slashed its 2014 expectations from 7.6% to 7.3%, and its 2015 forecast from 7.8% to 7.6%. The bank cited the failure of anti-corruption attempts, slowing consumption, and concerns about trade figures in the first two months of the year.
- The Madness Begins: Billionaire Warren E. Buffett has insured a $1 billion prize for any Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO) user who signs up and predicts a perfect bracket in this year's NCAA men's basketball tournament. However, the odds of predicting a perfect bracket are north of 9.2 quintillion-to-one. Games begin this afternoon just after 12 p.m., and the contest is restricted to 15 million users. The top 20 winners of the contest will still earn a cool $100,000.
Note: The Fed's 2014 taper means volatility ahead. So we've outlined how to find profits in a volatile market – like triple-digit gains in just days – if you start with this strategy…
U.S. Economic Calendar March 20, 2014 (all times EST)
- Jobless Claims at 8:30 a.m.
- Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index at 9:45 a.m.
- Philadelphia Fed Survey at 10 a.m.
- Existing Home Sales at 10 a.m.
- Leading Indicators at 10 a.m.
- EIA Natural Gas Report at 10 a.m.
- 3-Month Bill Announcement at 11 a.m.
- 6-Month Bill Announcement at 11 a.m.
- 2-Yr FRN Announcement at 11 a.m.
- 2-Yr Note Announcement at 11 a.m.
- 5-Yr Note Announcement at 11 a.m.
- 7-Yr Note Announcement at 11 a.m.
- 10-Yr TIPS Auction at 1 p.m.
- Fed Balance Sheet at 4:30 p.m.
- Money Supply at 4:30 p.m.
Key Companies Reporting Earnings March 20, 2014
- Consensus earnings per share for ConAgra Foods, Inc. (NYSE: CAG) is $0.60.
- Consensus earnings per share for Nike Inc. (NYSE: NKE) is $0.72.
- Consensus earnings per share for IHS Inc. (NYSE: IHS) is $0.75.
- Consensus earnings per share for Lennar Corp. (NYSE: LEN) is $0.28.
- Consensus earnings per share for Scholastic Corp. (Nasdaq: SCHL) is $-0.37.