Top stock market news today, April 3, 2014: The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 40.39 points yesterday to finish at 16,573.00. The Nasdaq increased 8.42 points, finishing at 4,276.46, while the S&P 500 climbed 5.38 points to finish at 1,890.90. The S&P 500 touched another record yesterday on positive economic data. February factory orders increased, while private-sector hiring in March increased to its fastest rate in three months.
Stock futures were up this morning, following news that China will likely increase stimulus efforts in the coming months in order to support its 7.5% targeted growth rate.
Five Biggest Stories in the Top Stock Market News Today, April 3, 2014
- Money in Politics: Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court voted 5-4 to remove caps on donations by individuals to political parties, candidates, and interest groups. The controversial decision preserved a $5,200 limit on donations from U.S. citizens to any single Representative, Senator, or presidency during a campaign cycle. That individual donor cap had been $123,200 previously. The ruling chips away at the campaign finance rules that followed the court's controversial Citizens United decision back in 2010.
- When Will Interest Rates Rise: San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank President John Williams said the central bank should begin raising interest rates in the second half of 2014. He noted, however, that the move should be done in smaller increments to keep borrowing costs down below normal through 2017. Said Williams: "Given the economic outlook, and given also my view that we need accommodative policy relative to historical norms, we need to have relatively low levels of interest rates for quite some time. My own view is it makes sense to start raising rates in the second half of 2015." Williams believes the rate should be within the 2% to 3% range through 2016.
- Banks Behaving Badly: The New York Times reports that federal authorities officially began an investigation into Citigroup's (NYSE: C) banking subsidiary in Mexico over $400 million in possible fraud. The company admitted in February that it found a massive amount of fraudulent loans though Banco Nacional de Mexico, and fired two bond traders over the incident; however, regulators are looking to expand the scope to determine just how many people were in on the scheme. The FBI is also exploring holes in the company's risk management policies that may have contributed. The revelation is a massive black eye for the U.S. bank, which had finally begun to claw its way out of the shadow of its public bailout.
- Food Prices Again Spike: In its highest reading since May 2013, the Food and Agriculture Organization's (FAO) price index jumped 2.3%, or 4.8 points, in March to hit 212.8. The index measures monthly price changes in a basket of food staples, including cereals, dairy, oil seeds, sugar, and meat. The jump in food prices is tied to both weather problems across the United States, which have created unfavorable planting conditions, and increased tensions in the Ukraine, a major international exporter of food crops. Last month, analysts projected a 3.5% increase in global food prices this summer.
- Another Court Battle: Electric car manufacturer Tesla (Nasdaq: TSLA) announced it will appeal New Jersey's ruling that prohibits the company from selling its cars directly to customers within the state. New Jersey requires any company selling cars within its borders to have franchise agreements. Tesla will ask an appeals court to overturn these regulations, as the company relies on its direct-to-consumer sales strategy for its luxury electric vehicles.
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U.S. Economic Calendar April 3, 2014 (all times EST)
- Challenger Job-Cut Report at 7:30 a.m.
- Gallup US Payroll to Population at 8:30 a.m.
- International Trade at 8:30 a.m.
- Jobless Claims at 8:30 a.m.
- PMI Services Index at 9:45 a.m.
- Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index at 9:45 a.m.
- ISM Non-Manufacturing Index at 10 a.m.
- EIA Natural Gas Report at 10:30 a.m.
- Global Composite PMI at 11 a.m.
- Global Services PMI at 11 a.m.
- 3-Month Bill Announcement at 11 a.m.
- 6-Month Bill Announcement at 11 a.m.
- 3-Yr Note Announcement at 11 a.m.
- 10-Yr Note Announcement at 11 a.m.
- 30-Yr Bond Announcement at 11 a.m.
- Fed Balance Sheet at 4:30 p.m.
- Money Supply at 4:30 p.m.
Key Companies Reporting Earnings April 3, 2014
- Consensus earnings per share for RPM International Inc. (NYSE: RPM) is $0.09.
- Consensus earnings per share for Greenbrier Companies Inc. (NYSE: GBX) is $0.60.
- Consensus earnings per share for Schnitzer Steel Industries Inc. (Nasdaq: SCHN) is $0.14.
- Consensus earnings per share for Perry Ellis International Inc. (Nasdaq: PERY) is $0.03.
- Consensus earnings per share for Global Payments Inc. (NYSE: GPN) is $0.95.