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Dow Jones Industrial Average News, 3/31/2016: Though traders are waiting for tomorrow's March jobs report, don't sleep through the action in today's trading session. Two members of the U.S. Federal Reserve are expected to speak, and ongoing interest rate chatter continues to weigh on investor sentiment. Meanwhile, weekly jobless claims came in higher than U.S. economists had anticipated. Last week, roughly 276,000 filed for unemployment benefits, topping expectations by about 11,000. Despite the increase, filings have remained under 300,000 for 55 weeks in a row. That's the longest streak since 1983.
And here's the top stock market news, stocks to watch, and economic calendar for March 31, 2016.
What's Moving the Dow Jones Industrial Average Today: Jobless Claims
Dow Jones futures today (Thursday) projected a 14-point gain at opening as Wall Street awaits speeches from the Chicago Federal Reserve Bank President and the New York Federal Reserve Bank President. Meanwhile, weekly jobless claims will offer another hint into tomorrow's full-month release from the U.S. Labor Department. Although the markets do not anticipate a rate hike next month – and Fed Chair Janet Yellen said the bank will shift expectations from four hikes this year to two hikes – the central bank has an increasing problem with credibility.
Here's a breakdown of why the Dow Jones is stuck in neutral this morning.
- First up, global markets were sliding around the world as oil prices slipped and sentiment reversed in the wake of Janet Yellen's dovish speech on the economy.
- The layoffs are coming. This morning, BlackRock Inc. (NYSE: BLK) announced plans to cut 3% of its workforce, while Boeing Co. (NYSE: BA) said it will slash 4,000 jobs as part of a broader $1 billion cost-cutting effort.
- Oil prices were mixed this morning as the dollar continues to slide. WTI crude prices were off 0.1%, while Brent prices ticked up about 0.8%. The falling dollar continues to be in focus for global traders.
- On the economic front, we're waiting on the Chicago PMI, which will offer insight into the health of domestic manufacturing in the Midwestern region of the country. In February, the index pulled back to 47.6. A reading under 50 indicates a contraction in activity.
Now here's your list of top stocks to watch in today's market, plus today's economic calendar:
Companies to Watch in the Stock Market Today
- The Obama administration received a massive blow in its efforts to regulate the financial sector after a judge struck down the "Too Big to Fail" designation of MetLife Inc. (NYSE: MET) as a company that is systemically important to the U.S. economy. Shares of MET stock jumped more than 5%, as the designation would have brought the company under the regulatory eye of the Fed and would have changed their capital requirements to far more conservative levels. In 2014, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew assigned this designation to several non-banking companies that should receive stricter financial oversight but may require substantial public assistance in the event of another crisis. However, insurance giant MetLife did not receive a bailout. Other firms receiving the designation were American International Group Inc. (NYSE: AIG) and GE Capital, the financial arm of General Electric Co. (NYSE: GE). Both received substantial bailout packages in the wake of the financial crisis.
- With MetLife off the hook, GE Capital is also trying to have its designation removed as its parent company says the firm has sold or shuttered most of its banking and financial businesses, thus reducing its strategic importance to the country. It no longer considers itself a major U.S. financial firm, particularly after its latest deal to sell its asset-management division to State Street Corp. (NYSE: STT) for up to $485 million.
- This morning, shares of Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. (NYSE: CMG) were on the move after the casual dining giant announced it has trademarked the name "Better Burger." This suggests that the company is planning on launching its own hamburger chain as it attempts to boost its image after several public health scares at locations nationwide.
- McDonald's Corp. (NYSE: MCD) is making a big push in China. The company's CEO told The Wall Street Journal that the firm plans to open 1,000 new restaurants in the country and is seeking a national partner to help with the expansion. The country is looking east as Western customers continue to transition to healthier diets and the firm faces higher costs, including wages and healthcare.
- On the earnings front, look for quarterly reports from Lindsay Corp. (NYSE: LNN) and Movado Group Inc. (NYSE: MOV).
Today's U.S. Economic Calendar (all times EDT)
- Challenger Job-Cut Report at 7:30 a.m.
- Jobless Claims at 8:30 a.m.
- Gallup Good Jobs Rate at 8:30 a.m.
- Chicago Federal Reserve Chair Charles Evans speaks at 9:30 a.m.
- Chicago PMI at 9:45 a.m.
- Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index at 9:45 a.m.
- EIA Natural Gas Report at 10:30 a.m.
- 3-Month Bill Announcement at 11 a.m.
- 6-Month Bill Announcement at 11 a.m.
- Fed Balance Sheet at 4:30 p.m.
- Money Supply at 4:30 p.m.
- New York Federal Reserve Bank President William Dudley speaks at 5 p.m.
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