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Stocks Showing A Lack Of Direction Ahead Of Jobs Report - U.S. Commentary

After recovering from an initial downward move, stocks have shown a lack of direction over the course of the trading day on Thursday. Traders seem reluctant to make any significant moves ahead of tomorrow's monthly jobs report.

The major averages are currently turning in a mixed performance, with the Dow down 3.67 points or less than a tenth of a percent at 13,071.08, while the Nasdaq is up 11.80 points or 0.4 percent at 3,079.89 and the S&P 500 is up 0.34 points or less than a tenth of a percent at 1,399.30.

The choppy trading on Wall Street comes as a number of traders are staying on the sidelines ahead of the release of the Labor Department's March jobs report on Friday.

With the U.S. stock markets closed for Good Friday, traders will have to wait until next Monday to react to the actual jobs numbers.

The report is expected to show the addition of at least 200,000 jobs for the fourth month in a row in March, although the unemployment rate is expected to remain elevated at 8.3 percent.

Before the start of trading, the Labor Department released a report showing an unexpected drop in jobless claims in the week ended March 31st.

The report showed that jobless claims fell to 357,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 363,000. Economists had expected jobless claims to edge up to 360,000 from the 359,000 originally reported for the previous week.

With the unexpected decrease, jobless claims fell to their lowest level since coming in at 352,000 in the week ended April 19, 2008.

Among individual stocks, Bed Bath & Beyond (BBBY) is up by 9 percent after the home furnishings retailer reported better than expected fourth quarter results. The company also forecast full year earnings growth in the high-single to low-double digit percentage levels.

American Apparel (APP) is also trading higher after reporting preliminary first quarter sales of $132.7 million, up 14 percent year-over-over.

Meanwhile, shares of Ruby Tuesday's (RT) are down by 13.6 percent after the restaurant operator reported disappointing third quarter revenues and warned of weaker than expected full year earnings.

Sector News

While most of the major sectors are showing only modest moves, electronic storage stocks are seeing considerable weakness on the day. Reflecting the weakness in the storage sector, the NYSE Arca Disk Drive Index is down by 1.9 percent.

Seagate Technology (STX) and Western Digital (WDC) are turning in two of the storage sector's worst performances, falling by 6.6 percent and 3.7 percent, respectively.

Significant weakness is also visible among networking stocks, with Polycom (PLCM) leading the sector lower after cutting its first quarter revenue guidance. The company also forecast earnings below analyst estimates. Shares of Polycom are down by 17.3 percent.

Housing, gold, and utilities stocks are also seeing moderate weakness, while modest strength has emerged among oil service, software, and retail stocks.

Other Markets

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region moved mostly lower on Thursday. Japan's Nikkei 225 Index fell by 0.5 percent, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index ended the day down by 1 percent.

Meanwhile, the major European markets turned mixed over the course of the trading day. While the German DAX Index edged down by 0.1 percent, the French CAC 40 Index crept up by 0.2 percent and the U.K.'s FTSE Index rose by 0.4 percent.

In the bond market, treasuries have moved to the upside on the day, further offsetting the steep drop seen on Tuesday. Subsequently, the yield on the benchmark ten-year note, which moves opposite of its price, is down by 6.1 basis points at 2.182 percent.

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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