By Lindsey Rupp & Nikolaj Gammeltoft
McDonald’s Corp. and Hewlett-Packard Co. added more than 1 percent to pace advances in the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Best Buy Co. rose 14 percent, the most in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index, after Samsung Electronics Co. announced it would staff mini-stores at the retailer’s U.S. locations. Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) fell 0.6 percent after Bank of America Corp. downgraded the shares for the first time since 2008.
The S&P 500 (SPX) fell less than 0.1 percent to 1,553.26 at 1:13 p.m. in New York, after rising as much as 0.6 percent earlier. The Dow lost 2.42 points, or less than 0.1 percent, to 14,547.93. Trading among S&P 500 shares was in line with the 30- day average at this time of day.
“An early morning rally in a short-term downtrend is not typically sustainable, so it’s not surprising that we are erasing some of our gains,” Bruce Bittles, chief investment strategist at Milwaukee-based RW Baird & Co., which oversees $85 billion, said in a telephone interview. “Economic numbers are showing the economy may not be as strong as we thought it was, and all that does is add to the uncertainty we’ve experienced over the last four years.”
Equities climbed earlier today after the Bank of Japan strengthened a stimulus program that will see the central bank buy 7 trillion yen ($73 billion) of bonds a month. European Central Bank President Mario Draghi signaled the bank will keep monetary policy loose for an extended period and that further easing is possible if economic conditions deteriorate. ECB officials meeting in Frankfurt left interest rates on hold.
The bull market in equities entered its fifth year last month, with the S&P 500 more than doubling from its bottom in 2009, as corporate earnings topped estimates and the Federal Reserve carried out an unprecedented three rounds of bond purchases to spur the economy. The S&P 500 and Dow closed at all-time highs on April 2.
Jobless claims rose by 28,000 to 385,000 in the week ended March 30, the highest since Nov. 24, Labor Department figures showed today in Washington. The median forecast of 47 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for a drop to 353,000. Before adjusting for seasonal variations, claims fell by almost 1,600.
The S&P 500 slid 1.1 percent yesterday, the most in more than a month, as a report from ADP Research Institute showed companies boosted employment by 158,000 workers in March, below economists’ forecasts calling for a 200,000 gain.
The jobs data come before tomorrow’s non-farm payrolls report from the Labor Department, which may show employers hired a net 195,000 workers for the month, according to the median forecast of 87 economists surveyed by Bloomberg.
Investors will begin to focus on first-quarter earnings reports beginning next week, with Alcoa Inc. scheduled on April 8 to be the first company in the Dow to report results. Profits among S&P 500 companies are forecast to decline 1.9 percent for the period, for the first retreat since 2009, according to estimates compiled by Bloomberg. In January, analysts forecast earnings growth of 1.2 percent. Profit expanded by 8 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012.
The Chicago Board Options Exchange Volatility Index, which measures the cost of using options as insurance against losses, increased 3 percent to 14.63 today after jumping 11 percent yesterday. The gauge, known as the VIX (VIX), is down 19 percent for the year.
Utilities and phone companies rose the most among 10 groups in the S&P 500, increasing at least 0.7 percent. Technology and energy shares slipped more than 0.5 percent. McDonald’s added 1 percent to $100.28. Hewlett-Packard added 1.1 percent to $22.15. AT&T Inc. jumped 1.2 percent to $37.73.
Best Buy climbed 14 percent, the most in the S&P 500, to $24.67. South Korea-based electronics maker Samsung said it will open 500 Samsung Experience Shops inside Best Buy locations starting April 8. The companies plan to add smaller Samsung spaces by June at about 1,000 other Best Buy and Best Buy Mobile locations, Samsung said.
Brinker International Inc. added 1.6 percent to $38.31 after Raymond James Financial Inc. raised its rating on the full-service restaurant company to the equivalent of a buy from a hold rating. Raymond James equity analyst Bryan Elliott’s 12- month target price is $42 a share.
Microsoft fell 0.6 percent to $28.40 after Bank of America lowered its recommendation for the world’s largest software maker to neutral from buy, citing a lack of momentum from the introduction of Windows 8 six months ago.
To contact the reporters on this story: Lindsey Rupp in New York at email@example.com; Nikolaj Gammeltoft in New York at firstname.lastname@example.org