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Top stock market news today, March 21, 2014: The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 108.88 points to finish at 16,331.05 The Nasdaq increased 11.68 points to finish at 4,319.29, while the S&P 500 added 11.24 points to close at 1,872.01. The markets soared on positive news from the Philly Fed manufacturing index.
On Friday, three U.S. Federal Reserve representatives will speak, offering fresh insights on Wednesday's FOMC meeting.
Meanwhile, U.S. futures are taking off this morning on news of improving U.S. data and a positive ratings upgrade for the nation's economy. Here's a look at what's on tap for today.
Five Biggest Stories in Today's Stock Market, March 21, 2014
- Under the Couch Cushions: Mt. Gox – the doomed Bitcoin exchange that filed for bankruptcy in February – announced it has located nearly one-quarter of lost customer Bitcoins. CEO Mark Karpeles said they located 200,000 of 850,000 pieces of the virtual currency in a previously used virtual "wallet." The firm lost approximately $500 million in customer coins at the time of the company's collapse.
- Choose Your Own Risk: According to yesterday's stress tests by the Federal Reserve on 30 U.S. banks, the firms would lose a combined $501 billion over nine months during a worst-case economic scenario. The Fed defined that scenario as a deep U.S. recession, a crash in housing prices, and recessions in the Eurozone and Japan. All but one bank – Zion Bancorporation (Nasdaq: ZION) – met the minimum standards for capital in such an event. The Fed announced that U.S. banks "are collectively better positioned to continue to lend to households and businesses and to meet their financial commitments in an extremely severe economic downturn than they were five years ago."
- Drinks after Coffee: In an effort to boost sales after the morning rush, Starbucks Corporation (Nasdaq: SBUX) will expand its offerings to alcohol sales and lite-menu items in the evenings. The company plans to expand this to "thousands of select stores" over the next few years, according to company reports. Today, about 26 stores offer alcohol after 4 p.m., in addition to an expanded kitchen that includes hot dishes like flatbreads. The announcement occurred during a conference call in which its CFO outlined a long-term plan to nearly double its market value to $100 billion and reconfigure its mobile and loyalty programs.
- USA, USA, USA: Fitch Ratings removed the United States from its "negative" outlook list this morning, returning the rating to AAA, with a "stable" outlook. The agency said its decision was based on the U.S.' increased flexibility as the world's reserve currency and its ability to move past government shutdown threats. Meanwhile, Fitch slashed Russia's credit outlook to "negative" in a revised outlook as economic sanctions imposed by the Obama administration take effect, combined with greater future uncertainty over the Crimean annexation.
- #Corruption: With a critical national election in 10 days, the nation of Turkey has blocked access to Twitter (Nasdaq: TWTR) a day after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's threat to "rip out [Twitter's] roots." The decision comes after users posted multiple links of wiretapped conversations incriminating the Prime Minister and his inner government circle of corruption. The recordings feature Erdogan and members of the nation's dominant AK Party meddling in "political, legal, business, and media affairs," according to Russia Today.
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U.S. Economic Calendar March 21, 2014 (all times EST)
- Atlanta Fed Business Inflation Expectations at 10:00 a.m.
- St Louis Federal Reserve Bank President James Bullard speaks at 11:45 a.m.
- Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank President Narayana Kocherlakota speaks at 4:30 p.m.
- Federal Reserve Gov. Jeremy Stein speaks at 6:30 p.m.
Key Companies Reporting Earnings March 21, 2014
- Consensus earnings per share for Tiffany & Co. (NYSE: TIF) is $1.52.
- Consensus earnings per share for Darden Restaurants, Inc. (NYSE: DRI) is $0.82.
- Consensus earnings per share for Blount International Inc. (NYSE: BLT) is $0.09.