United States Stocks are trading in a narrow range Thursday after a fresh batch of economic reports showed the economy continues to slowly regain its strength.
The slightly positive reports on inflation, jobless claims and leading indicators are being tempered by fresh concerns about debt problems in Greece.
The reports continue to paint a picture that the domestic economy is slowly improving. Stocks have steadily edged higher over the past five weeks on similar news, even though the data hasn’t shown signs of strong growth.
“The market has been grinding higher on what has been benignly positive news,” said Alan Gayle, senior investment strategist for RidgeWorth Investments. “There is a growing sense the economy is plodding along in the right direction.”
In late morning trading, the Dow Jones Industrial average rose 17.31, or 0.2 percent, to 10,750.98. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 1.49, or 0.1 percent, to 1,164.72, while the Nasdaq composite index fell 0.74, or less than 0.1 percent, to 2,388.35.
The Dow is looking to close higher for the eighth straight day.
The Labour Department said the Consumer Price Index was unchanged in February. Excluding volatile energy and food prices, the CPI rose 0.1 percent. Economists polled by Thomson Reuters, on average, forecast a rise of 0.1 percent in both figures.
The slow economic recovery and continued high unemployment have kept prices in check.
It was the second straight day the Labour Department reported tame inflation figures. On Wednesday the government reported that wholesale prices barely rose in February.
The Federal Reserve has said inflation is expected to remain low for quite some time. That will allow the central bank to keep interest rates low to help try and drive economic growth. Low rates are also favorable for stocks and other riskier investments like commodities.
Gains over the past couple of days came after the Fed said it would keep its federal funds rate near zero and noted the economy is showing more signs of improvement.
High unemployment is likely to be the biggest stumbling block for strong, sustained growth. The Fed isn’t expected to start hiking rates until job creation is consistent.
The Labour Department also said Thursday that initial jobless claims fell by 5,000 to a seasonally adjusted 457,000 last week. Economists were expecting claims to fall to 455,000.
Even though it came up just short of expectations, it was the third straight week of declines, which provide evidence that layoffs are slowing and employers could start hiring new workers soon.
Initial claims have hovered around the 450,000 mark in recent weeks, which Gayle called a “tipping point” between employers adding or cutting jobs.
In other reports, a gauge of future economic activity rose at its slowest pace in 11 months, indicating the economy isn’t expected to surge anytime soon. The Conference Board’s index of leading indicators rose 0.1 percent in February, matching analysts’ expectations.
Economic data has largely been falling in line with expectations in recent weeks, leaving little room for quick gains or losses on very upbeat or discouraging reports. Stocks have been grinding higher over the past five weeks, with the Dow up about 825 points during that time. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq both closed Wednesday at their highest levels since 2008.
Thursday’s economic reports are being offset somewhat by the latest worries in Greece. The country warned it might turn to the International Monetary Fund for support if European leaders can’t agree to a bailout plan next week.
Worries about Greece’s debt have weighed on the market off and on for nearly two months as the country tries to sort out billions of dollars in budgetary gaps. Overseas markets were mixed.
“That’s why you’re seeing a little bit of resistance,” Greg Merlino, president of Ameriway Financial Services, said about Greece. “Whenever we hear Greece, we get this knee-jerk reaction, is this the first domino to fall?”
There are concerns debt problems could spill over to other weak European countries like Spain and Portugal. The dollar rose against the euro and other currencies.
In corporate news, FedEx Corp. said its fiscal third-quarter profit more than doubled. It also raised its full-year earnings forecast, which brought it in line with analysts’ expectations.
FedEx is considered a bellwether for the economy because of the variety of products it ships. Despite the upbeat earnings report, shares fell 44 cents to $89.36.
About five stocks rose for every four that fell on the New York Stock Exchange, where volume came to 220.5 million shares, compared with 264.1 million traded at the same point Wednesday.
Bond prices were little changed. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note, which moves opposite its price, rose to 3.65 percent from 3.64 percent late Wednesday.
Gold and oil both fell.
The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies fell 0.20, or less than 0.1 percent, to 683.78.
Overseas, Japan’s Nikkei stock average fell 1 percent. Britain’s FTSE 100 rose 0.1 percent, Germany’s DAX index rose 0.1 percent, and France’s CAC-40 gained 0.1 percent.
Farmer Cries Out Over Cattle Invasion
A farmer in Aluu Community in Ikwerre Local Government Area of Rivers State, Mr Nwo Nna, has cried out over cattle invasion of his farmland and crops.
Nna made this known in a chat with newsmen in Aluu recently.
He said that the most worrisome aspect of the development was the neglect by the herders of the Anti-Grazing Law passed by the Rivers State House of Assembly.
The farmer who discribed such as vexatious and provocative, appealed for intervention by relevant agencies in order to secure their future.
“I got to my farm on Saturday morning only to see my vegetables, cassava, yam and the entire farm devastated by cows”, he said.
He expressed regrets that his farm, which was not at the road had experienced such attack for the second time.
The farmer noted that it would have been a different ball game, if he had met the herders in his farm.
“The saving grace was that I did not meet them. They should be called to order to avoid problems”, he said.
He also sought for urgent intervention of the Rivers State Government, Myyetti Allah and other relevant authorities to warn the herders to keep off people’s farms in the interest of peace.
The farmer further explained that it was becoming a regular practice for herders to parade their cows along the roads, and such cows stray into farm lands and destroy people’s means of livelihood.
While declaring that Rivers people are hospitable, the farmer warned stranger elements, who do not have respect for the laws of the land as well as terrorise other people’s means of livelihood, to take their lawlessness elsewhere.
Other farmers who also responded called for the establishment of a system that monitors the activities of herders.
According to them, it will enable those who take their cows into farms to be identified and adequately sanctioned in the event of any invasion by the cows.
This, they said will bring a lasting peace and as well serve as a deterrent to others.
By: King Onunwor
EFCC Blames Frauds In Banking Sector On Insiders
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission last Wednesday said most frauds in the banking sector were perpetrated by insider Information, Communication Technology employees.
Head, Cybercrime Section of the EFCC, Abbah Sambo, made the declaration at a national seminar on Banking and Allied Matters for judges in Abuja recently.
Sambo, who represented the EFCC Chairman, Mr Abdulrasheed Bawa, at the seminar, said that most banking sector frauds handled by the commission showed that bank employees aided the acts.
He also expressed regrets at the increasing rate of cybercrime in spite of efforts by the commission to tackle it.
Sambo observed that in years past, young people involved in cybercrime were not ICT savvy, but today, it was ICT graduates that are the champions in perpetrating the crime.
He attributed the increase in cybercrime to moral decadence and peer group influence.
“The rate at which young men are perpetrating cybercrime is seriously alarming.
“When we arrest these criminals, one major reason they give for going into the crime is peer influence.Their friends are into it and they want to run with guys that drive the best cars and have the best girls in town”, he said.
He hinted that most times when the criminals were arrested, a lot of assets on them, are registered in the names of their parents.
“Cars in the names of their mothers and houses in the names of their fathers. There is a fundamental issue relating to decay in moral coverage in the society,’’ he said.
Sambo said that the greatest challenge in fighting cybercrime was the knowledge gap, and noted that the criminals were getting more sophisticated.
According to him, the criminals had the ability to talk to one another seamlessly by sharing knowledge, unlike law enforcement agencies.
“A lot of the people trying to combat the crime in the field tend to lack the drive because they do not have adequate training,’’ he said.
He stressed the need for adequate sensitisation and engagement with youths, especially from secondary school level to let them know the ills of crime.
The two-day seminar was organised by the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria in collaboration with the National Judicial Institution.
SEC Frowns At Resurgence Of Ponzi Schemes
The Securities and Exchange Commission has frowned upon the resurgence of Ponzi schemes and illegal fund managers in the country’s financial sector.
The Director-General of SEC, Mr Lamido Yuguda, made the observation of the development at an enlightenment workshop with the staff of the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning on in Abuja over the week.
Yuguda said that the unlawful schemes had continued to enjoy massive patronage of the populace and remained a source of concern for regulators in the financial sector.
According to him, the commission was poised to continue to apply measures and seek the cooperation of relevant stakeholders toward combating the activities of these Ponzi schemes.
He expressed regrets that the upsurge of the schemes had undermined the reputation of the financial markets and dampened investors’ confidence, among other things.
“SEC firmly believes that the country’s capital market can attain its potential if market operators and participants contribute their respective quotas to the growth”, he said.
He also explained that SEC was committed to always ensure and maintain an environment that was enabled by the appropriate regulatory framework, timely and affordable access to market.
“The commission is also committed to zero tolerance for infractions, heightened investor confidence and awareness, innovative product development and good governance practice”, he said
“There is the need to restore investor confidence and improve the participation of retail investors in the market.
He further pointed out that the demography of investors in the country’s capital market showed that the young population do not participate in the capital market, and only a few Nigerians invested in the capital market.
The situation, he said, created a huge challenge to the market growth and the commission and added that it was striving to change the narratives by instilling a fair, transparent and orderly market.
The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, represented by Mr Stephen Okon, Director Home Finance, urged investors to take advantage of the various initiatives in the market.
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