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Dow Jones Industrial Average News, 3/31/2016: With the March unemployment rate set for release tomorrow, traders took a wait-and-see approach on the final day of the first quarter. In some surprising news, gold prices were tracking for their best quarter since 1986, as the U.S. dollar continues to show weakness with the U.S. Federal Reserve electing to hold interest rates since the December 2015 FOMC meeting.
Here's what you need to know about the markets on Thursday, March 31, 2016.
First up, check out the results for the Dow Jones, S&P 500, and Nasdaq:
Dow Jones: 17,685.09; -31.57; -0.18%
S&P 500: 2,059.74; -4.21; -0.20%
Nasdaq: 4,869.85; +0.55; +0.01%
Now, here's the top stock market news today...
DJIA Today: The "Unreal" Q1 Rally, China in Focus, Looming Earnings
Banks just aren't making money on trading even though it's been one of the wildest quarters in recent memory. By mid-February, you'll recall stocks were off more than 10% for the year, fueled by a steep decline in energy stocks. However, as traders pushed aside concerns about a possible recession in the United States and the Fed backed away from additional rate hikes, the markets took off in March. The S&P 500 gained roughly 7% this month and pushed stocks to a 1% gain for the year. The Dow and the S&P 500 ended up with their second-straight quarterly wins.
WTI crude oil prices were mixed again, but finished one of the strongest one-month rallies we've seen in 11 months. WTI prices ended the month with a 13% gain.
On the economic front, pay attention to China's PMI readings, which will be released later tonight. Traders are still concerned about a possible economic slowdown in the world's second-largest economy. Manufacturing provides a strong level of insight into the health of the Chinese economy. The Caixin PMI reading for February was 48.0, a tick lower than the January reading of 48.4. Any figure under 50 signals a contraction for the sector.
But the big talk today was about upcoming Q1 2016 earnings, which are expected by S&P Capital to be the worst set of readings since 2009. While traders chattered about the the Federal Reserve's upcoming meeting on interest rates, energy volatility, the Brexit, and the U.S. election debacle, the earnings season is staring us in the face and it's going to be a scary one. According to Thomson Reuters, S&P 500 earnings are expected to slump by 6.9% in the first quarter, the worst numbers we've seen since the height of the financial crisis. It gets even worse for the energy sector, where the average energy profit figures are set to fall by a whopping 99% across the board.
Now, let's look at the day's biggest stock movers and today's must-own stock...
Top Stock Market News Today
- Shares of General Electric Co. (NYSE: GE) were on the move today after the company announced plans to try to remove the "Too Big to Fail" tag assigned to GE Capital in the wake of the financial crisis. The announcement comes a day after a judge ordered that insurance giant Metlife Inc. (NYSE: MET) no longer needs to have that designation, which would have put the firm under the watchful eye of the Federal Reserve. With GE now pushing to remove the label - which deemed the firm "systemically important" to the U.S. economy - there is much speculation that both Prudential Financial Inc. (NYSE: PRU) and American International Group Inc. (NYSE: AIG) will take similar legal action. AIG and GE Capital both received multibillion-dollar bailouts from taxpayers.
- Amazon.com Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN) announced plans to expand its Dash Buttons product line to more than 80 brands. The Dash allows users to push a button that's connected to Wi-Fi and purchase products instantly. The firm says orders from Dash buttons have increased by more than 75% in the last three months. AMZN stock was off a little more than 0.8% on the day.
- Big news at the Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) 2016 Build Conference. The tech company unveiled it will construct an advertising blocker into its new browser called Edge. The plan is part of a broader effort by Microsoft to compete against Alphabet Inc.'s (Nasdaq: GOOGL) ever-popular Chrome Browser. This is part of a larger effort that could make ad-block extensions unnecessary in the future. MSFT stock was up 0.3% this afternoon.
- On the earnings front, shares of luxury watchmaker Movado Group Inc. (NYSE: MOV) slumped 9.3% after the company offered modest earnings results for Q4 but issued a very weak FY17 guidance outlook.
- Finally, here's your must-own stock of the day. We love technology, but there's a huge reason to get behind this company that had tough times in the last year. They've just unlocked a huge profit catalyst in their Silicon Valley facility, and this stock is poised to offer income and appreciation opportunities for decades to come. Money Morning Defense & Tech Specialist Michael A. Robinson keys you in on why this has become a must-own stock.
Oil prices have suffered one of the worst crashes in modern history. But WTI prices just had their biggest monthly rally since April 2015, and there's one reason why they'll keep going higher in 2016 and beyond
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About the Author
Garrett Baldwin is a globally recognized research economist, financial writer, consultant, and political risk analyst with decades of trading experience and degrees in economics, cybersecurity, and business from Johns Hopkins, Purdue, Indiana University, and Northwestern.