Stocks ended Thursday with small losses after another quake triggered Japan, less than a month after the country’s the March 11 devastating quake and tsunami. The indexes pared their losses after the impact of the latest quake appeared to be not much as previous fears.
Additionally, ongoing uprisings in Middle East and North Africa rattled investors with fears of continued high oil prices.
Crude futures for May delivery rose $1.47 to $110.30 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 0.1 percent to 12,409.49, with 18 out of its 30 components sliding.
The Standard & Poor's 500 lost 0.2 percent to 1,333.51, with utilities and industrials the hardest hit of its 10 industry groups. Shares of chip manufacturer KLA-Tencor dropped 5 percent.
The Nasdaq composite closed down 0.1 percent to 2,796.14.
In the U.S, the Commerce Department reported 382,000 people applying for unemployment for the first time, marking three straight declines in four weeks. The drop signals that layoffs are slowing.
Contrary to analysts’ prediction of decline in sales for March at major retailers’ stores due to cold weather and higher gas price, some retailers reported good sales for March.
Costco Wholesale Corp posted a 13 percent increase in sales. Brands Inc. reported its revenue rose 14 percent thanks to strong to at its Victoria’s Secret stores. Shares of both retailers climbed 4 percent and 1 percent respectively.
Shares of home furnishing retailer Bed Bath & Beyond Inc., also advanced after the company reported strong results late Wednesday.
Wine and vodka maker Constellation Brands Inc. reported its wine sales in North America increased double.
The European Central Bank raised its key interest rate by a quarter point to 1.25 percent the first increase since July 2008. The decision was made one day after Portugal requested a bailout. The central bank took actions ahead of its peers the U.S. Federal Reserve, the Bank of Japan, and the Bank of America.
According to ECB president Jean-Clause Tricket, the bank would continue to track inflation risks “very closely”.
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